The Hunt for Souvlaki Row

When I first introduced my dad on this blog a few days ago, I mentioned his giant sweet tooth…but I left two key things out.

1) I inherited at least half of my love of food/eating prowess from him. You can take this to mean that he really, really likes food.
2) One of his favorite foods in the world is the venerated souvlaki.

Now, this last bit may not normally be relevant…but today, we arrived safely and soundly in Athens, Greece!

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So, you see, this knowledge is extremely relevant, for Greece is the original birthplace of this most tasty dish. While perusing Rick Steves’s Greece guidebook, my dad happened upon a blurb about a street that immediately called his blood like the siren attracts sailors – a place called Souvlaki Row. According to the guidebook, this Row was the place to get savory souvlaki, freshly made, for dirt cheap.

And so, after doing some sightseeing (including pastry sights, to be discussed later), we set off for this famous street of flavor. Unfortunately, we could not seem to find it! We arrived at the place marked on our map, but the street consisted of only one cocktail bar and a slew of closed shops. No souvlaki in sight.

After furiously analyzing our map and looking very much like the lost tourists we were, we realized our mistake: the (hand-drawn) label “Souvlaki Row” on our map wasn’t, in fact, the actual row, but was a label, with an arrow pointing to a lower street. Again, we set off, more determined, and slightly the wiser. 5 minutes later, the scent of freshly grilled meat and vegetables wafted through the air. We had arrived.

The row was a complete assault on the senses. First the mouthwatering smell, then the sight of tables, chairs, and patrons lining both sides of the street, and then, the greetings from waitstaff and owners of every single restaurant, urging us to try their wares. In the end, after many firm “nos” and an intense scrutinization of the products, we finally decided on lamb souvlaki, and sat to enjoy it in the square.

Here it is: the product of intense searching and longing.

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This particular souvlaki had lamb meat, tomatoes, onions, tzatziki, as well as french fries! Was it worth it? Most definitely. The combination of the juicy tomatoes, savory meat, tangy sauce and onions, and crunchy french fries was excellent.

And, because we had walked all this way, we decided to try another from a different restaurant.

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We actually liked the second one more than the first, if possible. The restaurant used an additional sauce (a bit like a barbecue sauce, but more tangy) which kicked the whole dish to another level.

Earlier today, I also tried another Greek specialty: baklava. Baklava, as you probably already know, is made of layers of filo pastry filled with nuts and honey. This baklava was really quite scrumptious. The filo was perfectly flaky, oozing sweet honey, with a nice crunch from the chopped almonds.

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I think today’s post could actually be called SUCCESS on Souvlaki Row (oh, and some baklava, too)! Unfortunately, tomorrow I will be trying for an early night to wake up for a 5:30am (no, not a typo) flight, so I will wait until the next day to post. See you then!

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