**small mountain's taverns ** sea side cantines **
**gastronomical restaurants ** colourful and generous markets**
If you were thinking to cook your meals because you're on a budget,
you'll soon miss out a fundamental element of the Cretan experience.
Sat in front of the mountains, the sea or both,
your nostrils tickled by the exciting smell of a family cuisine,
don't forget to enjoy the delicious and very reasonably priced Cretan cuisine
The Cretan diet is often mentioned, along with the Japanese one, as one of the healthiest on our planet. It has survived to the globalisation and even though the young Greek generation tends to look in the direction of international food, it remains an important part of the family cuisine. One of its great values is that it is particularly tuned with the seasons and the local resources.
However, you could miss the most authentic address if you go straight to the restaurants where the menu is translated in 5 languages. Here is a little guide on how to pick up the best places to make the most of the Cretan experience:
1. Avoid the aligned taverns on the sea side. To certain exceptions, they are very touristic spots where the cuisine has lost a lot of its authenticity, and the bills often reach outstanding amounts that Cretan people would never dare paying themselves.
2. Don't hesitate to come in what "appears like" a taverna: a discreet outside sign, ideally all written in Greek, some tables on the footpath with some old people facing the street, a grandma waiting for you behind the kitchen counter. Those are signs that you have potentially found a promising address.
3. If when you ask for the menu, instead of giving you a laminated paper, one grab your hand and bring you to the kitchen, you've won at the lottery: you are at the right place! Your hosts will open the crock pots heating on the stove and let you tell by your smell which one is exciting to your taste buds. Have a sit and enjoy the experience!
If you wish to go a bit further in the experimentation of the local cuisine, you should try the mezzedes tradition! Known in western Europe as mezze (sold in the supermarkets as different appetizers), their true name is mezzedes.
Once you've settled in your chosen tavern, once you've had a smell or a visit in the kitchen, order some drinks and announce proudly: "MEZZEDES PARAKALO" (Mezzedes please).
You've just ordered a sample of all what's been cooked by the chef, that will come along with your drinks.
In some places they will come without asking anything, but as Cretan people are aware that it is one of their very specific cultural habits, they might need you to assert your choices.
Once you'll have dipped some lovely fresh bread in the tasty sauces of some meat stew or tried some of the vegetables marinated in the island's olive oil, you can then order the plate you've preferred as a main course and get a second round, if your stomach claims it.
Mezzedes are often enough to keep you going for a few hours and they are very friendly budget wise! (you will find an idea of the food budget down this page).
You'll be surprised not to find desserts on the menu, however, they are much more current in the city's restaurants.
Don't misunderstand the Cretan cuisine, sweets and pastries exist and they are multiple. They very often come along with the season: fruits "confits", semolina based pastry, fresh cheese cupcakes. Even if the tradition tends to disappear in some places, the dessert comes just before the bill, as a "house gift".
As a tradition can hide another one, it's as well generally served with some Raki, local white distilled alcohol, processed in old alambics at the end of the grape harvest. You'll have at least to dip your lips to discover one if its many flavours. Be aware that if you empty your glass, you might be served again by your host, and Cretan roads are already particularly tortuous!
Average price of a light meal at the tavern (mountain and villages): 5€
Average price of a consistant meal at the taverne (mountain and villages): 9€
Average price of a restaurant's meal in town/city: 12€
Average price of a coffee on the terrace: 2€
Average price of a refreshing drink (soda type): 1,5€
(last update April 2019)
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Lootraki guesthouse - BP 287 - Arnikou - Agios Nikolaos 72100 - Crete
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