Serious Eats

Snapshots from Greece: Souvlaki from O Thanasis in Athens

Note: Our own Erin Zimmer just returned from ten days eating and drinking her way around Greece. This is the first of her snapshots from that trip. —Ed.

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I had two priorities during my quick day in Athens: see the Parthenon and digest something from the souvlaki-kebab-gyro family. Luckily there's only one ancient temple devoted to Athena, but there are plenty of kebab-rotating, meat spit-shaving men that look they could be the best. Though my Rough Guide to Athens recommended O Thanasis just off the northeast corner of Monastiraki Square, I needed a second opinion. "The best, the totally best," said the guy who sold me an international converter at a teeny electronics stall along the Eolou Street bazaar. That was good enough for me.

Squeezed behind the counter, at least ten men flip lamb skewers and rip open trash bag-sized sacs of fresh pita. Yelling in Greek, they have that "kebab is my middle name" look, which is always a good sign. While it's easy to get lost in the meaty clouds of happiness, you need to focus here. Securing a table is part of the experience. Inside or outside, it's packed (or you can get it rolled up in wax paper to-go).

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The menu is simple: pita kebab for one (€2.20), or a bigger portion on a plate with four kebabs of lamb, chicken, or pork, topped with roasted tomatoes and onions (€8.80 to 9).

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Alone, the kebab more than satisfies, everything is better with a plate of cold tzatziki goop. I think each serving (€2.70) is made for multiple people to share, but you can easily dunk each bite in the garlicky, cucumber hunked-out yogurt and take care of business alone.

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A Greek native once told me that according to souvlaki tradition, you should throw a few French fries inside, so, in the name of authenticity, you better get a plate of fries too (€2.10). And it wouldn't be a Greek establishment without the house salad (€4.50). Feta blocks on tomato, cucumber, and onion slices, topped with olives and a lake of that really good greenish-gold olive oil.

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The Rough Guide and the electrical accessory shop employee didn't mention how the men could stack five plates on each arm, how lamby the lamb tasted, and how a little shake of paprika (paprika shakers sit next to the salt ones on every table) adds a little kick, but I guess that's what they meant by the best. This is the sustenance you need before hiking up to the Acropolis.

O Thanasis

69 Mitropoleos, Athens Greece (map)
Just off the northeast corner of Monastiraki Square
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Printed from http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/07/o-thanasis-athens-greece-best-souvlaki-kebabs-tzatziki.html

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