This post is the story of a dinner at Sakis Kebab, a small Greek taverna located a few blocks from the Marriott Hotel in Athens, Greece. Sakis Kebab is a 100-year-old, family-owned restaurant that I stumbled on accidentally. The hotel concierge directed me to another restaurant. That restaurant was crowded and looked expensive. As a solo diner, the calmer and less pretentious atmosphere at Sakis Kebab was more appealing.
The restaurant is about a three-block walk from the Athens Marriott just past REA Maternity Hospital. The hospital became a life saver later in the trip, but that is another story. No maternity services were involved, ha ha.
Taverna’s are small restaurants serving Greek cuisine, usually a range of appetizers, salads, meat and seafood dishes, kebabs, grilled foods like souvlaki, baked dishes like moussaka, desserts and alcoholic beverages including wine, tsipouro, and ouzo.
Sakis Kebab’s official address is Demosthenous 8 and Pentelis 47-49 17122 Nea Smyrni, Athens. It is situated about one block off Syngrou Avenue one of Athens’ main thoroughfares. The hours vary. The restaurant is open from 14:00 to midnight on Friday and Saturday, 18:00 to midnight on Wednesday and Thursday, and Sunday from 13:00 to 23:00. It is closed Monday and Tuesday. The restaurant has been owned and operated by the same family since it opened in 1920.
I arrived at about 21:00 on Friday and was surprised that few people were there. In Greece, people tend to eat the evening meal late, which is my preference. The place didn’t start to get busy until about 22:00. In Greece, the midday meal is the largest one of the day for many. Greeks also tend to eat as a family, especially on Sunday.
The restaurant’s street sign advertised Greek BBQ. As a BBQ fan from way back, this restaurant sounded like a good place to investigate. Entering the main dining room I was greeted by a young waiter who, it turned out, was part of the latest generation of the family business. I decided to sit outside because the weather was pleasant and its safer from a Covid standpoint.
I asked the waiter about Greek BBQ and suggestions for a traditional meal. Greek BBQ, he explained was a kebab not the type of BBQ I’m familiar with from back home. I was familiar with the standard kebabs and wanted to try other Greek dishes. I went along with his suggestions and had a wonderful meal.
The waiter suggested pastrami pie as an appetizer. It is made with grilled pastrami and Arabic pita bread, three kinds of cheese, feta trimmings, tomato and spices. It was tasty and filling. The arrangement of meat and cheese in the pita bread reminded me of pita pockets we have in the States.
Next, I couldn’t pass up a traditional Greek salad and pita bread. The salad consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, Greek olives, virgin olive oil, chopped red onion, capers, green bell peppers, and oregano. The salad was excellent.
I should have been traditional and ordered tsipouro, a strong Greek brandy, with the salad. Rakia brandy is a must with Greek salads in neighboring Bulgaria. I tried tsipouro at Barbanaki Restaurant in Athens on a previous trip. Greek Alfa beer was the alcoholic accompaniment for this meal.
The main course was one of the house specialties, the Constantinople Kebab. It is made with Adana kebab, seasoned minced lamb wrapped in Arabic pita, garnished with tomato, peppers, grated cheese, tomato, and Greek yogurt sauce baked in the oven and served bubbling hot. The kebab was a delicious mixture of the kebab, cheese, onion and tomato flavors matched with a cooling and delicious yogurt sauce.
For good measure, the waiter also threw in dolmades, in this case a vegetarian dish of grape leaves stuffed with rice wand herbs served with yogurt and lemon. This dish is often used as an appetizer.
I was completely stuffed after these amazing dishes (the Greek salad is a meal in itself) and passed on dessert — a decision I regret today but was definitely the right one at the time. As a final surprise, while paying the bill at the counter, the waiter treated me to a colorless glass of Greek liquor that I presume was ouzo. I couldn’t find any service charge in the bill and as thanks for the comped dolmades and ouzo I left a tip of four euro for the bill which came to just over 30 euro.
The service and food at Sakis Kebab was excellent as would be expected in a family-owned restaurant that has been in business for 101 years. The whole family is involved from the father in the kitchen to the mother who sings and cooks too to the children who are the wait staff. The atmosphere is pleasant, warm and pridefully and authentically local.
I was very pleased with the whole experience. If you’d like a delicious home-cooked meal at a restaurant, try Sakis Kebab when in Athens.