Fourth in a Series:
During my week on the Greek island of Milos, I saw no Mexican restaurants, no sushi bars, no French bistros, or even a Chinese take-out joint.
Yes, there were casual cafes that served pizza, burgers, or crepes as part of their offerings, but no dedicated ethnic eateries or American fast-food places.
All this was fine with me. My family and I ate Greek food three times a day — more if you count the occasional snack — and never got tired of it.
Not only was it almost invariably fresh and delicious, but the variety in selection and preparation far surpassed what you might expect to find in a Greek restaurant in the United States. Our diet went way beyond the familiar gyros, souvlaki, and moussaka — although we enjoyed those on occasion as well.
My family and I even ate lunch one day at a restaurant, Sirocco, advertising “volcanic food,” and tried the eggplant baked in hot sand. The beach where the restaurant was located, Paliochori, is said to have volcanically heated thermal waters, but I could never find them — or the hot sand. But the dish was yummy.
Having rented a house in the village of Tripiti for the week, and with a rental car available, we were also able to shop in local markets and stock up on appetizers (olives, feta, cheese pie) for cocktail hour on the terrace — the hour grew later and later as we adjusted to Greek time — as well as some breakfast items such as fruit, bread, honey, yogurt, tomatoes, and coffee.
But mostly we ate out, because the food was so inviting and the settings in the tavernas — Greek restaurants — were often so memorable.
As were the taverna owner-chefs, who typically rushed about, taking orders, advising diners at length on what to eat, answering endless questions on how their dishes were prepared (and not averse to boasting that theirs was the best on the island), all the while taking time to engage in long schmoozing sessions with diners from all over the world.
On occasion, beset with all this activity, they would mix up the orders or forget to write down a certain dish. In one taverna, the owner apologized to the diners at the table next to ours that he had forgotten their eggplant salad. They were mystified, and rightly so, because it was we who had ordered it. He never did figure it out, and was so effusively apologetic that everyone gave up trying to explain.
At another taverna, the owner — or more likely the owner’s husband since the restaurant was named for a woman — was taken aback when my wife, Catharine, and I ordered only an array of appetizers. “But none of those are main courses!” he exclaimed. We had obviously violated some sort of diners’ code, because he left looking befuddled and a bit leery of us.
Later, a couple at the next table attempted the same appetizer-only gambit, but the owner’s husband-cum-server was having none of it. “You must have main courses!” he insisted. They both ended up with plates of moussaka that were the size of small battleships.
Still, for us, this was all part of the entertainment. We always got more than enough to eat, the food at each was indeed perhaps the best on the island (depending on the individual dish), the prices were right — typically about $25-$30 for a multi-course meal for two with wine, and with virtually no tipping expected — and the views were often exceptional. Several of the outdoor tavernas occupied prime locations on the hillsides overlooking a broad valley and the harbor. Sunsets, when we ate on the early side, were flaming orange.
As the week progressed, however, we found ourselves eating later and late for both lunch and dinner.
Multi-course lunches for four adults — including our son, Grael, and daughter-in law, Nona — sometimes lasted until late in the afternoon, after which we would head to the beach.
Cocktail hour on our terrace went from the familiar 5 o’clock in the afternoon to 6, then 7, then 8 and even 9 p.m. The locals we discovered, didn’t really start pouring into the tavernas until late in the evening.
One restaurant, which we were mystified to find empty at 7 p.m. one evening, was totally filled at midnight when we ate there later in the week.
Because we were eating dinner so late, we avoided driving to restaurants and back in the dark on Milos’ often narrow, winding roads, and stuck to tavernas that we could walk to in Tripiti and nearby Plaka.
Wheeling six-month-old Conrad, our third generation traveler, in his stroller wasn’t always easy through Tripiti’s own narrow, winding streets, but Nona could take him back to the house if he started to get tired.
So we weren’t able to sample the reputedly excellent seafood restaurants in Pollonia, Tripiti’s second largest city and a good 20-minute drive away. But Tripiti has its own exceptional tavernas, serving, among many other dishes, our favorites such as these:
- Tzatziki — the classic Greek dip of yogurt, garlic, and cucumber, served with pita bread or with various mezze (appetizers).
- Fava bean puree — creamy and delicious as a spread on pita.
- Eggplant salad — every taverna seemed to have its own take on this dish, and all were wonderful.
- Calamari — fried or grilled squid.
- Octopus — grilled or marinated.
- Small fried fish — whitebait or other little fish deep fried and eaten whole.
- Courgette balls — deep fried zucchini balls; lightly fried, blended with dill and mint, they’re superb.
- Boiled leafy greens — dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
- Greek salad — a staple composed of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and a slab of feta on top, dressed with olive oil and Greek oregano. A must at most meals.
- Sausages — an unexpected pleasure, often made with lamb.
- Grilled meats — mostly lamb or goat. (Grilled skewered meat — souvlaki — also features chicken.)
- Baked lamb with potatoes.
- To drink, house wines or Mythos beer, plus plenty of bottle water.
- For the occasional dessert, baklava or watermelon.
One other treat deserves mention: the freshly squeezed orange juice served for breakfast at our favorite cafe in Tripiti, Remvi, and other cafes by the waterfront in the port city of Adamas.
Also in This Series :
Coming soon: My (Well, Her) Big, Fat Greek Baptism