In the early 1980s in Greece, vegetarianism was an alien concept and a good excuse to mock someone mercilessly. However, in the last decade in particular (perhaps also due to growing interest in alternative therapies and exercise like yoga) Greeks have become familiar with the vegetarian ideology and practice, and more recently the vegan diet too. That said, the Greek diet has a broad variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, and the religiously faithful go on several vegan fasts per year, some as long as 40 days. Yet, the presence of meat, and in huge varieties, has taken centre-stage on the family table.
The Original vegan hotspot in Athens, Avocado is run by Eraj, whose wife Vivi runs NYSY Studios yoga school right across the street. It’s also next door to Four Seasons organic mini-market so this whole area on Nikis Street has become a health-lover’s go-to place. The (organic) food here is nutritious, delicious and worldly – from Kimchi Wraps to coriander-topped Dahl or vegan sushi and avocado pizza, there’s something for everyone. The juices, teas and smoothies rock too, and if you’re in a hurry and nearby it’s well worth grabbing lunch in a glass here in the form of protein shakes or other superfood kicks. Also suitable for families (there’s a changing table in the women’s bathroom), work lunches and take-out.
A more recent arrival, with a Sacred Geometry-directed design by healing architect Lydia Yannopoulou. The dinky Exarcheia vegan hangout serves soothing , freshly made and superfood-packed, homemade soups (cold in summer and steaming hot in winter) , salads, tarts, snacks, desserts and a choice of hot and cold drinks. There are plenty of raw options too.
Run by two chefs who turned vegan a few years ago and then felt they had to open a restaurant to share their culinary inspiration with the wider public, Lime in Gazi has recently expanded by creating a pleasant back garden as well as having a funky interior imbued with shades of blue. Vegan burgers, a daily raw tart of the day, soups, power smoothies and salads (try the raw carob-‘dako‘ rusk tomato salad with creamy almond ‘myzithra‘ cheese), mouthwatering excellent desserts, and truly warm and friendly service.
Mama Tierra serves a broad variety of ethnic vegan and vegetarian dishes inspired by Latin America, India, the Mediterranean and Middle East, with hearty everyday dishes such as (mushroom) burgers, colourful fresh salads, and soothing soups. The ingredients used are all sourced from small, local, organic producers.
A raw menu almost exclusively based on uncooked cuisine. More of a cafe than a restaurant, Yi produces its own nut-and-seed “butters” and “cheeses”, and more. Mouthwatering “I can’t believe it’s raw!” desserts like hazelnut mousse and crepes. The focus is to create light, allergy-free dishes – lactose, gluten, sugar and dairy free, and of course non-processed. They make their own nut and seed butters, grow their own sprouts, and use marinades that effectively break down the tough fibres of some foods. Their specialty is hot (with hot water added, not boiled) and cold soups and their most popular dish is the Burrito platter for two.
NB. Raw and vegan cuisine has become a cool phenomenon that modern & especially younger Greeks are warming to, something to which the budding presence of health food stores, organic street markets and workshops by top level vegan chefs like Nikos Gaitanos.
Avocado: 30 Nikis, Syntagma
• Tel.: (+30) 210.323.7878
Melikrini: 14 Asklipiou (Panepistimio metro),
Tel. (+30) 2155458787.
Lime Bistro: 23 Dekeleon (Kerameikos metro),
Tel. (+30) 2103474423.
Falafel House: 23 Athinas St (Monastiraki metro),
Tel. (+30) 2103234183
Mama Tierra: 84 Akadimias
Tel.: (30) 211.411.4420
Trivoli Vegan Kafeneion: Marinou Antipa 107a, Ilioupoli (Ilioupoli metro stop), Tel. (+30) 2114050120.
Yi: 69 Grigoriou Lambraki, Glyfada
Tel.: (+30) 210.964.8512.
Zahari kai Alati
38 Athanasiou Diakou St, tel. (+30) 2109244322.