Where to eat in West Macedonia and Thessaloniki
As we launch our Green Traveller's Guide to West Macedonia and Thessaloniki, Sarah Baxter selects a range of places to eat selling local, seasonal food in this beautiful part of northern Greece. Thessaloniki is the hub for the region and is a great place to spend a few days before and after exploring the rest of West Macedonia.
Photos: Richard Hammond
Food tour of Thessaloniki
The food scene in Thessaloniki is sizzling. You can easily spend several days exploring the local markets, tasting local delicacies and the best regional cuisine. Don't miss the Bougatsa at the Kozani Pastry Shop, Trigono Panoramatos pastries at Elenidis, cheese and salami from the Terpsis Deli, traditional Tiropita Greek feta cheese pie from ΟΙ ΠΙΤΕΣ ΤΗΣ ΒΟΥΛΑΣ, washed down with superb coffee at Lena's Bistro. Local tour guide Sassa Panagiotopoulou runs guided tours of to all of these places, including stalls selling fresh fish, olives, fruit and vegetables. She also runs specialised cultural tailor-made tours including religious, urban and various other thematic tours adapted to adults and children of all interests and backgrounds. yourtouristguide.net
Photos: Richard Hammond
Agios Ahilios Taverna, Agios Ahilios, Prespa National Park
This homely family-run taverna sits on the tiny islet of Agios Achillios (population: circa 25), in the middle of Lesser Prespa Lake. Which means the views from its wrap-around balcony are excellent, looking out across the water and the footbridge that connects the island to the shore. The interior is a characterful and artistic space, decorated with the original works left behind by patrons who’ve attended the art symposiums held here over the years. The food is excellent too (see photos above), with every dish created from fresh, natural, local ingredients, including vegetables from the family’s own gardens, meat and cheese from their free-range animals and fresh fish straight from the lake; the Prespa beans, baked with red peppers, are particularly good. All the sweets and liqueurs are homemade too, to recipes perfected over decades. agiosahilios.gr
Kontosoros, Xino Nero, Florina
Kontosoros is perhaps not the sort of restaurant you expect to find in a rural village in the foothills of northern Greece. Founded by chef Nikos Kontosoros, and now helmed by his talented daughter Iliana, this unexpectedly sophisticated spot puts a modern spin on traditional Macedonian recipes. That includes sout makalo, a poor man’s comfort food of meatballs in a porridge-like stew, given a classy update here, as well as dishes centred on regional ingredients: zingy aivar relish made with Florina peppers, baked Florinela cheese with marmalade, local beef expertly grilled, plus plenty of fruit, herbs and veggies grown in the garden out back. The wine cellar is state-of-the-art and stocks 200 Greek labels, many from nearby vineyards; wine tastings can be arranged. If you drink too much to drive, there’s a handful of smart guest rooms on site. kontosoros.gr
Prespeion, Agios Germanos, Prespa National Park
Nikos has been a chef for four decades, mostly in the Cyclades, but he moved to Agios Germanos in around 2010 because, he says, he’s always the loved mountains. Now, his taverna on Agios Germanos’s central square is the best in the village. He serves traditional food done well – baked peppers, spicy feta, Greek pies, lake trout, kebabs and beef burgers made from the variety of dwarf cows that graze the fields around the lakes and are renowned for their delicious, low-fat meat. But his real speciality is firing up the spit. On busy days and weekends, he’ll light the charcoal early, season hunks of lamb and pork with oregano, salt and pepper, and let it slow cook for a few hours, until its succulent and tender. It pairs perfectly with a Macedonia-brewed Vergina lager or a tsipouro or two. Central Square, Agios Germanos
Ta Psaradika, Mikrolimni, Prespa National Park
Zenia and Kiriakos have created a small slice of heaven in little Mikrolimni. Their restaurant, Ta Psaradika, lies by the lakeside in this serene end-of-the-road fishing village; its wide west-facing deck sits on stilts above the water, gazing across to Mount Vrondero, next to a small sandy beach and reedbeds bursting with birds. Zenia’s grandfather founded the place back in 1952, establishing its reputation; it closed for a while, but the couple took over around seven years ago, moving up from Athens and injecting fresh energy and a supremely laidback, cosmopolitan vibe. Cool, chill-out tunes play as a small, thoughtful, changing menu of meze dishes is served: plates like spiced Prespa beans, pickled tsironi (small lake fish), grilled carp caught fresh, local feta and sausage, excellent chips. Finish up with a shot of Kiriakos’s own-recipe tsipouro as the sun sets. facebook.com/groups/psaradika
Syntrofia Tavern, Psarades, Prespa National Park
Lazaros and Georgia Christianopoulou set up this taverna at the end of Psarades little harbourfront in 1988. Now their children – Eleni, Christina and Germanos – have taken over the reins, revamping the building but continuing the same high standards of food and hospitality. Only the best quality ingredients are used, including lots of lake fish, fresh from the family’s own boat – choose from the selection swimming in the tank outside. The menu features traditional local recipes but changes with the seasons. In summer you can sit on the waterside veranda and enjoy mushroom souvlaki, tzatziki-stuffed pumpkins, crisp salads (using vegetables grown in the family garden), grilled carp and friend tsironi fish. In winter, you can retreat into the fire-warmed restaurant for smoked pork, soutzoukaki meatballs, Florina pepper pasta, home-distilled tsipouro and homemade red wine.
Taverna Thomas, Amyntaio, Florina
Ask anyone in the Florina region for a restaurant recommendation and they’ll likely say this place. Run by the Paspalis family since 1970, Taverna Thomas serves up exceptionally good food using local products from carefully selected producers. The wine cellar stocks 500 Greek wines too.
Prespes Farm, Prespa National Park
The Dimitropoulos family farm has been producing beans in the Prespa region since the 1930s. Nurtured by the nutrient-rich lake waters and special microclimate, they’re considered some of the best in Greece. Products can be ordered online; you can also walk amid their bean fields on the lake’s eastern shore. kingbeans.gr
Naoumidis Restaurant, St Panteleimonas, Florina
Naoumidis serves up traditional dishes, accompanied by wines from its own vineyard, in a great location. In the warmer months, dine in the courtyard or on the balcony overlooking Lake Vegoritida; if it’s cool, head for the hall, which is warmed by a traditional fireplace and local music.
Samaras, Xino Nero, Florina
This traditional, family-run coffee and tsipouro place has a relaxed atmosphere, great service and a wide array of handmade, good-value meze dishes. Sit out on the pavement, under the blossom tree, or inside, where the walls are hung with old photos and vintage posters. tsipouradiko-samaras.business.site
Omegas Tigris, Nymfaio, Florina
The name of this small restaurant translates as ‘the greatest tiger’, the nickname of owner Dimitris – quite the character. Sit at a pavement table or in the art-hung interior and tuck into a selection of local dishes – try the kebabs, bean salad and sausage with melted cheese. Village square, Nymfaio
Nonas Stergios Legumes & Beans of Prespa, Laimos, Prespa National Park
This traditional store on the main road is pretty as a picture, with its picket fence, bright-yellow facade and potted flowers. It sells a selection of high-quality, pesticide-free legumes, from giant beans and elephant beans to lentils and chickpeas. prespesfasolia.gr
The Google map below shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, visitor attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to West Macedonia and Thessaloniki
Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities