Fad, way of life, political statement, path to enlightenment or just plain bored, upset or fed up with the way things were, veganism has made its way into our lives and is here to stay.
Aware of the importance and impact of food on our bodies, our minds, the environment, and on the world as whole, all the more people are beginning to think about things such as origin of what we eat, processing, the cruelty and exploitation of animals involved, and where it all ends up.
For ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, good health was all about maintaining harmony with nature, and healing involved turning to nature’s gifts: the plants and the herbs.
Up until the late ‘70s, most Greeks maintained a fairly plant-based diet. With the onslaught of consumerism things changed radically and from a country that ate meat rarely, Greeks became fanatic meat eaters as it also became associated with wealth.
That explains why a decade ago, the idea of finding a restaurant serving vegetarian choices or a supermarket selling such items in Greece was near to impossible. Now, you don’t know which variety of non-dairy milk to choose from.
Undeniably, Greeks love their meat. And yet, we Greeks are also doubly blessed to have inherited a diet that has so many vegan and vegetarian options that we really never thought about needing to find special ways to incorporate these into our daily routines.
Ikaria’s Secret to Long Life
Let’s not forget the Greek island of Ikaria, in the northeast Aegean, was part of a massive study known as the “Ikaria Study”, which found that the inhabitants on this isle lived longer and felt better not to mention had near to zero depression rates. The island became a member of the “Blue Zone” countries, which basically have the longest life expectancies in the world.
What did the majority of the study’s over-80 participants do? They cherished siestas, walked and laughed… and followed the Greek diet, which is basically brimming with fruits and vegetables, olive oil and low in animal products.
And if you add to that the fasting days recommended by the Orthodox Church, Greeks could (should they choose to) end up eating meat no more than 40 days a year.
Going Back to Basics
As of late, eateries and shops offering vegan and vegetarian options are popping up across Greece. You are now bound to find at least one café serving plant-based options on Greek islands popular with tourists.
In Athens, vegan and vegetarian choices have mushroomed. Greek restauranteurs have actively begun to either expand and diversify their vegetarian offerings while an impressive number of younger-generation shop-owners having decided to go full-out vegan.
Educated and knowledgeable about the latest trends in plant-based or vegetarian cuisine with constant training on the latest vegan food trends, products and innovations, this new bunch of creative chefs, cooks and food/health lovers have brought about change and choice to Athens.
Where’s a Vegan to Eat in Athens?
Today, I suggest eight places in Athens serving some real good vegan or vegetarian foods, each specializing and supporting one or more aspects of sustainable living and at the same time doing their bit to change mentalities. But like I said before, dozens of new shops are opening up by the day offering their take of vegan, raw food or vegetarian cuisine. So I suggest you also visit HappyCow or download their app and get the latest on vegan options where ever you are.
I discovered this little gem by chance. During one of my ‘forced’ city walks (which became a healthy habit) during the Covid lockdowns, I literally hit gold! Since then, this wonderful bistro in Nea Philadelphia has been my “office for the day“, my favorite outing with friends, my “introduce friends to a great place” and my chillin’ spot.
Located in the backstreets of a traditional Greek neighborhood where you can still find beautiful homes and architecture, Mimosa Neighborhood Bistro not only serves up the finest vegan and vegetarian breakfasts and lunches, it makes great coffee, exciting (and well-made) cocktails, and boast a constantly renewed menu with snacks of all sorts for all times of the day.
The young people who have Mimosa are also up-to-date with the latest trends in vegan cuisine, ask you straight out if you like their new menu items, and are constantly trying and testing fresh things. What’s more, everything at Mimosa Neighborhood Bistro is done with love and respect, which is evident in the aura of the place. Make sure to try all the sweets (yes, I admit I never thought vegan sweets could taste this good), the bowls and salads, and the open toasts, the Love Potion cocktail, and of course, the non-vegan options, which are also unbeatable.
“It’s not only food,” according to chef Polash Alam, one of the men behind this central Athens eaterie that is dedicated in practice to Mother Earth, whether that’s using locally produced organic products or serving reworked landmark dishes of Greek, Indian, Mexican and other cuisines like our favorite, the vegetarian moussakas with béchamel sauce made of coconut milk. It’s tiny but it also offers delivery options.
Off the main thoroughfare in Palio Faliro, coastal Athens, this unassuming place has got loyal customers from the neighbourhood as well as tourists who’ve read about its great food. The owners, both yoga instructors, have a vision for a better, healthier world and they’re doing their best to spread the word through a wide array of vegan options and raw food, including superfood salads and sugar-free desserts, of course. Not to mention a pizza to die for. The duo also arrange events, offer tailormade “intro to veganism” diet plans, and catering services.
You can’t leave Greece without trying a souvlaki! That’s what these guys think too so they decided to create the first vegan souvlaki grill in the heart of Athens, offering not one, not two but four plant-based versions of the Greeks’ beloved street food.
Another charming vegan food spot located in the trendy Koukaki neighbourhood in central Athens, just below the Acropolis. This bistro-like stop is dedicated to fresh, affordable vegan and raw finger food, wraps, sandwiches and delectable sweets – all made with love and respect to Mother Earth. Don’t forget to try those savory tarts!
One more hip neighbourhood, one more eaterie: Mets has its own vegan favourite: Veganaki that serves everything from cashew nut feta ‘cheese’ and gluten-free traditional Greek pies to veggie burgers and tahini-tinged apple pie.
More than just a juice bar with its colourful array of cold-pressed fruit and veggie juices and smoothies, To Vazaki is an experience and an example of dedication, vision and love. Delivery is done on bike, organic products are made in Greece, you’ll find bowls of all sorts, burgers of all sorts, and breakfast combos for pre- and post-training, morning energy, or for the simple folk like us – good old granola and coffee. They can also take on your catering needs or design (by their inhouse dietician) a juice cleanse just for you. Where? In Halandri.
In the heart of Athens, you’ll find this lively mini-market that seconds as a café serving vegan treats and organic coffees. The shop is well stocked with the items you’ll need for home to prepare your own full-blown vegan lunch or dinner. While there, you can also grab a sandwich or wrapper or even try out some healthier versions of Greek favourite breakfast varieties or even my darling, the matcha chocolate chip vegan cookie.
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♫ And I conclude today’s post with some Greek humor taken straight out of one of my favourite films “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”… the Greeks’ view of vegetarianism.