We love a savvy traveler, an energetic traveler, and an enthusiastic traveler. NYC restaurateur James Mallios seems to be all three at once, making a great case for traveling to Greece right now. Drown your sorrows, celebrate your newfound finds, commiserate with the locals, and help that economy run.
GREECE – Greece is my favorite place to visit. I’ve been there a dozen times and will use any excuse to return. The beaches are pristine and the food beautiful in its simplicity. But If you watch television or read the news, traveling to Greece seems like a pretty bad idea. Riots. Cashless ATMs. One news service even predicted a shortage of feta. Wrong. I recently traveled to do some research and development for Amali — my Mediterranean restaurant in midtown Manhattan — and know that it's a good time to be a tourist in Greece.
While there were a few minor inconveniences, the protests are extremely organized and the country’s hospitality industry has never been better. Restaurants are full and the dollar is almost at parity with the euro for the first time in years. Wine might be the greatest bargain of all. A bottle of Kir-Yianni sparkling rosé at a high-end hotel restaurant in Athens is 15€. The same bottle might cost you $60 or more at a NYC restaurant. How about a kilo of quality house wine at a beachside taverna? That will cost you less than ten bucks in Greece.
Consider it for a last summer fling. And if you go, add my favorite restaurants, tavernas, and wine bars to your list.
Best Places to Imbibe While Watching the Sunset in the Cyclades
Make a reservation in advance or be sure to arrive before 7 p.m. to snag a table at these spots.
Sea Breeze Bar
Little Venice, Chora, Mykonos; +30-697-271-8022
After just one visit, you'll feel like a regular. You might see a clown on stilts who stops by your table to pressure you into a third round of shots, or you may dance to 25-year-old music with a 21-year-old girl. Needless to say, memorable (or perhaps not) nights in Mykonos start at Sea Breeze Bar. Tell Spiro I sent you, and don't forget to lay some flowers at the doorstep of the dearly departed Caprice Bar.
Thera 847 00, Santorini; +30-228-602-1120
Tourists and rookies go to Oia. Experienced Santorini visitors know that the best sunsets can be seen from the village of Imerovigli. There, Kapari serves fresh juices and great cocktails with an emphasis on local cuisine.
Best Wine Bars
By the Glass
Syntagma, 3 G. Souris St. and Philellinon, Athens; +30-210-323-2560
Closer to the Acropolis, By the Glass offers a wide range of classic Greek and European producers at an excellent price point. It's one of the few Greek restaurants where you can walk in and grab a great grower champagne for a comparative steal. There's also live music in the courtyard.
Oinoscent: Wine Bar + Shop
45-47 Voulis St., Syntagma Plaka, Athens; +30-210-322-9374
Wine bars are the newest trend in Athens and Oinoscent is a quirky one. Walk into their cellar, poke around, and pick any bottle you'd like (the reasonable price comes later). They specialize in lesser-known Greek producers and have a deep selection of Greek and non-Greek vintages.
2 Fokionos, Athens; +30-210-323-9406
This wine bar may feel more at home in Bushwick than Athens because of their natural wines, obscure Greek varietals, and heritage cheeses and charcuterie.
Fokos Beach, Mykonos; +30-694-464-4343
A beachside taverna with a great wine list — and a particularly great selection of rosés to go along with the amazing views.
Agios Sostis Beach, Mykonos; no phone
Look around for this tucked-away place. Find a table underneath one of the ancient olive trees and enjoy rosé while you wait for your pork chop to grill.
Selene Meze and Wine Restaurant
Pyrgos Kallistis, Santorini; +30-228-602-2249
Selene has been the archetype for fine dining in Santorini (and arguably Greece) for almost 30 years. It's baby sister, the newly opened Selene Meze and Wine Restaurant, has as strong a wine list as exists on the island. A good sign: I often see winemakers eating dinner here.
For Only-in-Greece Fun
Semeli the Bar
Little Venice, Mykonos; +30-228-902-6505
Uh-oh. A nightclub with a French maître d', Brazilian girls, '70s disco, and hip hop classics.
Malamatenia Alley, Matogiannia, Chora, Mykonos; +30-228-902-6333
Enjoy cocktails in the open air before going to the discoteque (yes, they still call it that in Greece). The square bar is great for making eyes at someone across from you.