A Greek restaurant is a restaurant that specializes in Greek cuisine. In modern Greece, even in times of economic crisis, going out to eat is part of the local culinary culture. Greek restaurants in the United States tend to be moderately priced. They also vary in terms of types of service, cuisine, menu offerings, table settings and seating arrangements. Greek restaurants may also offer dishes from various other cuisines on their menus.
The estiatório (plural estiatória) is a type of modest restaurant in Greece. It has been described as "something of a vanishing breed." This form of an eatery was more active during the early 1900s in Greece. An estiatório may purvey dishes such as casseroles, meat and game stews, baked meat and fish, macaroni pie, and mayirefta in the form of moussaka. Estiatória serve dishes from the oven called magerefta, and can also offer grilled-to-order foods called tis oras, and fish, as well as appetizers (mezedes) and salads.
Girádiko (plural girádika) restaurants purvey the popular Greek dish gyros. Gyros are the traditional on-the-go fast-food-like meal in Greece. In Greece, gyros are typically prepared using spiced ground pork shoulder meat on a pita with tzatziki sauce, while in the United States, they are commonly prepared with ground lamb sliced from a vertical rotisserie spit.
Meze restaurants are known as mezedopoleío (singular) or mezedopoleía (plural) and serve appetizers known as meze or orektiko (plural mezedes/orektika) to complement beverages. Some meze restaurants serve whatever has been prepared that day. Places like this offer no menus. Meze restaurants are regarded as the most expensive, and these types of eateries are common in Greece, especially in Psiri, Athens.
Establishments known as ouzerí are a type of café that serves drinks such as ouzo or tsipouro. They are similar to mezedopoleio restaurants, and also provide similar foods and service. A tsipourádiko is a "local variant of an ouzerí."
Tavernas are typically medium-sized restaurants with affordable pricing that purvey a variety of Greek dishes, foods, and beverages. With outdoor seating, they are trendy during the summer season. Tavernas originated in Greece.
A gyro restaurant (gyrádiko) in Latin Quarter, Paris
A gyrádiko in Cyprus (left corner)
Mezedopoleio in Naxos
In many Greek restaurants, it is not considered impolite for guests to enter the kitchen to see what is cooking before ordering, although this may not occur in fine dining and hotel restaurants. After this, a waiter may be notified of guest choices. Table service is often relaxed and laid-back, and patrons may need to flag down wait staff to order and request items. Wine is commonly consumed during lunch and dinner. Ouzo is typically available in Greek restaurants.
There are many Greek restaurants in the United States, with 3,100 categorizing themselves as such and at least one existing in every U.S. state. In the U.S., Greek restaurateurs may provide authentic Greek cuisine and customs. They may also offer dishes from other cuisines. Many Greek restaurants in the U.S. were started by immigrants from Greece, some of which began due to new health codes in the U.S. during the early 20th century that limited or restricted food carts. Per these restrictions during this time, some people opened Greek restaurants instead. Additionally, during this period of time, many Greek confectionery and sweet shop businesses declined due to an increase in manufactured candies and sweets. Many of these companies transformed their businesses into lunchrooms, and later, restaurants. It has been estimated that approximately 7,000 Greek restaurants existed in the U.S. by the beginning of the Great Depression.
It has been suggested that the first documented Greek restaurant in the U.S. was the Peloponnesos in Manhattan, New York City, in the Lower East Side, which may have opened "as early as 1857", although it has been stated that the opening date was "more likely in the 1880s".
In 1913, there were "several hundred Greek-owned lunchrooms and restaurants in Chicago."
In the 1930s, many Greek restaurants in the U.S. went out of business. This was in part due to problems that occurred during the Great Depression. During this time, competition increased due to an increase of affordably-priced lunch counters opening in various types of stores, such as drug stores and department stores. Additionally, more patrons could not afford to eat out in restaurants during this time.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of Greek restaurants increased, and by the 1970s, they were a significant pillar in the U.S. restaurant landscape.
Of note is that Greek immigrants in the U.S. also opened other types of restaurants, such as restaurants serving other cuisines, diners, luncheonettes, pizzerias, and coffeehouses. Some immigrant-owned Greek restaurateurs opened restaurants that specialized in other ethnic or national cuisines, such as Italian cuisine.
A tavérna or estiatório may offer a meze as an orektikó. Many restaurants offer their house pikilía, a platter with a variety of various mezedes that can be served immediately to customers looking for a quick or light meal. Krasomezédhes (literally "wine-meze") are mezedes that go well with wine; ouzomezédhes are mezedes that go with ouzo, a Greek beverage. Psomi oretiko is a bread appetizer that is common in Greek restaurants.
In Greece, the main courses may be ordered directly from the kitchen, from a menu board or from physical menus. In coastal Greek restaurants, fish dishes may be weighed and sold by the kilogram, which occurs before cooking. Frozen fish is sometimes used, which may be described on menus as katepsigmenos. Seafood dishes that are staples include swordfish, octopus, squid, sardines and prawns.
Most Greek restaurants will have traditional water, sparkling water, pop/soda, wine, and beer. Some restaurants will also have specialty cocktails and wine. "Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and among the first wine-producing territories in Europe." Some restaurants also may serve Ouzo, "a dry anise-flavoured aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece and Cyprus. It is made from rectified spirits that have undergone a process of distillation and flavoring" It is a "tradition to have Ouzo in authentic Greek restaurants as an aperitif, served in a shot glass, and deeply chilled before the meal is started."
Restaurants in Nafplio
Interior of a taverna in Kos
A fast casual Greek restaurant
Restaurants in Thessaloniki
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