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Greek Souvlaki - Lefteris O Politis

Where to Eat the Best Greek Souvlaki in Athens – An Athens Souvlaki Guide

In Europe, Greece by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch4 Comments

We created the ultimate souvlaki guide after a month of eating souvlaki in Athens Greece, the epicenter of traditional Greek souvlaki. Check out our favorite spots for kalamaki skewers, kebabs and gyros in Athens.

Greek Souvlaki in Athens Greece

Athens Greece may be the world’s best cheap eats city thanks to the plethora of souvlaki shops located all over the city. Athens street food fans line up at all hours of the day and night for souvlaki sandwiches stuffed with grilled meats and fresh vegetables. They find the cheapest souvlaki for under €2, with few costing more than €3.

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Greek Souvlaki Guide for Athens

Greek Souvlaki at Kalamaki Kolonaki in Athens Greece

Kalamaki skewers and fried potatoes are a popular Athens street food combination. Pictured: Kalamaki over fries at Kalamaki Kolonaki.

We arrived in Athens curious about the city’s souvlaki scene. Having grown up with Greek diners in the US, we were familiar with souvlaki but we were curious to try the Greek fast food favorite in its homeland. As it turns out, we had a bit to learn about souvlaki. Luckily, we’re fast learners when it comes to good food.

What is souvlaki?

Greek Souvlaki at Elvis in Athens Greece

Simple and juicy, the kalamaki skewers at Elvis are a tasty bargain.

For the uninitiated, the simple souvlaki definition is grilled meat on a skewer. The meat can vary from pork to beef to chicken to lamb and should be grilled fresh to order. And, since one souvlaki skewer is never enough, it’s important to know that the plural of souvlaki is souvlakia.

Though you can eat a souvlaki platter, Greeks typically eat souvlaki on a pita that’s stuffed with the grilled meat as well as tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, chili pepper flakes and french fries. (Yes, most street souvlaki sandwiches in Athens include french fries inside the pita.)

Greek Souvlaki at Thanasis in Athens Greece

Typical Greek gyros include meat shaved straight from the spit. We ate this one at Thanasis.

Closely related to souvlaki, gyros are pitas stuffed with meat shaved off a spinning rotisserie wheel. Gyro pitas have the same ingredients as souvlaki pitas. The key difference between gyro and souvlaki is that the meat is shredded in Greek gyros as opposed to the cubed meat used in souvlaki.

Interestingly, people in Athens include kebabs and gyros when they refer to souvlaki, instead calling the skewers kalamaki. So… we are opting to include kebabs and gyros in this article. With food travel, it’s key eat like a local. And in Athens, the locals have a broad definition of souvlaki. At the end of the day, this just means more great Greek street food for everybody.

The Best Athens Souvlaki Shops

Greek Souvlaki at Kostas in Athens Greece

The souvlaki sandwiches at Kostas may be the most popular in Athens.

With a month in Athens to eat Greek souvlaki, we had time to scour the ancient city to find the best souvlaki in Athens. We found our favorites where we returned again and again as well as others that didn’t make the cut to be featured here.

We never ate bad souvlaki in Athens. That’s saying a lot considering how much we ate. We even made a YouTube video about the best Athens souvlaki shops.

Now that you’ve watched us eat souvlaki all over Athens, read on to explore our favorite souvlaki shops for skewers, gyros and kebabs:

Lefteris O Politis (Λευτέρης Ο Πολίτης)

Greek Souvlaki at Lefteris O Politis in Athens Greece

This beef souvlaki at Lefteris O Politis was a flavor bomb made our lips tingle in a good way.

This simple stand in the blighted Satovriandou neighborhood serves only one type of sandwich but oh what a sandwich it is. Small crowds gather as the staff grills ground beef on skewers and stuffs the cooked meat into pitas along with tomatoes, onions, parsley and a liberal sprinkling of chili powder.

If you’re looking for beef souvlaki in Athens, Lefteris O Politis should be your first stop. Unlike many shops and restaurants in Europe, the meat here is juicy with fat. That juiciness melds with the chili powder to create a strong flavor punch in a compact package that sells for just €1.90 (approximately $2.25 USD). Mindi enjoyed hers so much she now calls them “Crack Kebabs.” They’re that good.

Pro Tip: Since the kebabs at Lefteris O Politis are on the smaller side, plan on ordering two… or maybe three.

Lefteris O Politis is located at Satovriandou 20, Athina 104 32, Greece.

Kostas (ΚΩΣΤΑ)

Kostas in Athens Greece

Follow the line to Kostas. The popular souvlaki stand is Athens’ most popular in Athens.

Open since 1950, Kostas is a local Athens street food favorite and high on the list of many hungry visitors including us. However, despite our good intentions to try the famous souvlaki, Kostas wasn’t open the first few times we visited. Kostas closes once they sell out of product and is also closed on weekends and holidays. When open, lines of souvlaki lovers spill out the door and onto Agia Irini square, making the tiny stand hard to miss.

Greek Souvlaki Grill at Kostas in Athens Greece

The team at Kostas grills each kalamaki skewer to order

Kostas isn’t fancy and there’s barely enough seating to accommodate customers. Plus, the Greek souvlaki menu is limited to two types of meat – cubed pork and beef patties. You may wonder why this joint is so popular in a city filled with souvlaki is so popular. Part of the answer is the tradition that seeps from the grill and onto the pitas, but the main reason may be the Kostas souvlaki recipe which adds spicy tomato sauce to each souvlaki sandwich. We heard that the recipe is a secret, as for the flavor – the secret is out.

Pro Tip:  Kostas is located next to Tailor Made, one of the best third wave coffee shops in Athens.

Kostas is located at  Pl. Agias Irinis 2, Athina 105 60, Greece.

Thanasis Kebab Monastiraki (Θανάσης Κεμπάμ Μοναστηράκι)

Greek Souvlaki at Thanasis in Athens Greece

Grillmasters shave pork and beef from giant wheels for the gyros at Thanasis.

When you stumble upon Thanasis you know that you’ve stumbled upon an institution. The place is huge with its sprawling patio just off Monastiraki Square and a large indoor dining area that reminded us of Katz’s deli in NY. At first glance, we thought that Thanasis looked like a tourist trap. We were wrong! Despite the constant crowds of tourists, Thanasis’ food and service are on point.

Thanasis has a full menu beyond grilled pork and chicken souvlaki sandwiches. We couldn’t resist ordering gyros during our first visit once we saw the staff hand slicing meat from large wheels. We loved our gyros but was our love justified?

Saganaki at Thanasis in Athens Greece

Be sure to try saganaki in Athens if you love fried cheese. And who doesn’t love fried cheese?

To be sure, we returned for a repeat performance. Yep – the Thanasis gyros were just as juicy as we remembered and were seasoned to salty goodness. If not the best gyro on pita in Athens, they certainly are a top contender. We also enjoyed Thanasis’ horiatiki (Greek salad) and saganaki (fried cheese) starters during our visits.

Pro Tip: Don’t feel obligated to order a big plate of food at Thanasis Souvlaki. Though wraps are not prominent on the menu, you can order gyros and souvlaki in pita without all the accouterments.

 Thanasis Kebab Monastiraki is located at Mitropoleos 69, Athina 105 55, Greece.

Elvis

Elvis in Athens Greece

Elvis may have left the building but this kalamaki skewer found its way to our bellies without his assistance.

Elvis Presley was a complex personality, but souvlaki shop Elvis is about as basic as it gets. Enter the quirky Athens grill stand, with two locations in Gazi and Pagrati, and you’ll choose from 4 different skewers – chicken, lamb kebab, cubed pork belly and pork sausage.

The Athens version of Elvis takes souvlaki meat seriously with some of the juiciest, bite-snappingly good pork sausage served this side of Memphis. If that’s not enough, the King serves a strong shot of raki to each customer ordering a skewer as a welcoming gesture.

Greek Elvis Presley Poster at Elvis in Athens Greece

Checking out the Elvis Presley memorabilia is half the fun of eating Elvis in Athens. This Greek Elvis poster caught our eye during one of our many visits.

Souvlaki skewers at Elvis are served with fries and a side of bread. You can even order grilled pita on request for a small surcharge. Enjoy your meal while glancing at the colorful interior featuring Greek Elvis memorabilia. Go ahead and order two if you’re hungry – each skewer at Elvis costs all of €1.70.

Pro Tip: Unlike the real Elvis, this Elvis rarely leaves the building. Closing time is 1:00 am from Monday through Saturday and 2:30 am on Sunday.

Elvis has two locations. We ate multiple times at Archimidous 1-5, Athina 116 35 in Pagrati near the Kallimarmaro Stadium.

Kalamaki Kolonaki (Καλαμάκι Κολωνάκι)

Cretian Dako Salad at Kalamaki Kolonaki in Athens Greece

We ate this Cretian rusk salad during our lunch at Kalamaki Kolonaki.

We walked up a steep hill to Kolonaki expressly to eat ‘meat on a stick’ options like ribeye, chicken, pork, lamb and turkey at Kalamaki Kolonaki. Since Athens’ most chic neighborhood reminded us of Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, we were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere, outdoor seating and olive tree – not to mention a menu with several salad options.

Greek Souvlaki at Kalamaki Kolonaki in Athens Greece

Not surprisingly, Kalamaki Kolonaki specializes in kalamaki skewers.

We give thumbs up to both the ribeye skewer cooked medium rare to our specification and the well-seasoned pork kebob that we ate during our lunch. Though we enjoyed our loaded Cretian dako (rusk) salad, we experienced major food envy as we watched our dapper, suited neighbors dig into their colorful, hefty Greek salad. Adding salt to our jealous fire, our other neighbors, a trio of women of a certain age, plowed into what looked to be a dozen (or more!) skewers as if there were no tomorrow.

Pro Tip:  Unlike many of the sit-down souvlaki restaurants in Athens, Kalamaki Kolnaki does not have a dedicated internet account. Plan on people watching during your meal instead of surfing the internet.

Kalamaki Kolonaki is located at Ploutarchou 32, Athina 106 75, Greece.

Good Athens Souvlaki Shops

Greek Souvlaki at Kalamaki Bar in Athens Greece

Good souvlaki in Athens doesn’t need any extra flavor beyond a squirt of lemon.

Though not the best in the city, the following Athens souvlaki shops are well worth a visit or two. Let’s face it, they’re still pretty darn amazing.

O Kostas (Ο Κώστας)

Greek Souvlaki at O Kostas in Athens Greece

Lines queue daily for souvlaki at O Kostas in Athens.

Not to be confused with the more famous Kostas (above) on Agia Irini Square, O Kostas is a fine choice for pork souvlaki during a day of touring. The tiny storefront shop serves straight up souvlaki the same way they’ve been doing it since 1950. Each pita comes stuffed with meat, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, parsley and a dash of chili. The inevitable line typically has a mix of locals and tourists, with many in line buying two souvlaki sandwiches for a cheap but filling lunch.

Pro Tip:  Arrive early at this souvlaki house to avoid disappointment. Although O Kostas officially closes at 3 pm, they stop serving food when they run out of meat. O Kostas literally ran out of souvlaki while we were in line at 2 pm during our first visit. We returned earlier the next two visits with better success.

O Kostas is located at Pentelis 5, Athina 105 57, Greece.

Kalamaki Bar (Μπαρ Καλαμάκι)

Greek Souvlaki at Kalamaki Bar in Athens Greece

More of a Greek restaurant than a souvlaki stand, Kalamaki Bar offers a full menu of Greek food favorites including souvlaki.

Kalamaki Bar is a modern dining option near the Acropolis with a nice selection of souvlaki kalamaki and Greek food favorites, all made with locally sourced products. During our lunch, we enjoyed eating a selection of skewers with veal, lamb, pork and chicken.

We enjoyed our meal – especially the french fries and grilled halloumi. The heaping helping of fries, served in an ice cream scooper, may be our favorite fried potatoes in all of Athens. The giant chunks of halloumi beautifully charred and served on skewers with green and red peppers were equally impressive.

Halloumi at Kalamaki Bar in Athens Greece

Vegetarians (and cheese fans) will want to try the halloumi skewers at Kalamaki Bar.

If you’re staying in the Acropolis area, Kalamaki Bar is a solid choice for a leisurely Greek style lunch, stand-alone dinner or a late night snack after a big night of partying. Whether you order a feast of Greek dishes or just a lamb souvlaki with fries, you will be happy with your meal.

Pro Tip: Order the giant Dakos (rusk) topped with tomato and feta if you’re feeling extra hungry. It’s a beautiful dish.

Kalamaki Bar is located at  Dimitrakopoulou ke Drakou, Athina 117 42, Greece.

Meatropoleos 3

Greek Souvlaki at Meatropoleos 3 in Athens Greece

The souvlaki at Meatropoleos 3 is loaded with flavor.

Meatropoleos 3 is conveniently located just off of Syntagma Square, a major metro hub and meeting spot in the city. Despite the prime location and outdoor seating, souvlaki here is competitively priced and generously portioned. When we ate at Meatropoleos 3, we were a bit turned off by the barbecue sauce slathered on top of our souvlaki. Even Mindi, a condiment junkie, thought the sauce was too much.

More than just a souvlaki stand, this casual steakhouse grills up burgers, sausage and steak to order. Vegetarians don’t need to feel left out with items like quinoa salad on the eatery’s extensive menu.

Pro Tip:  Save room for dessert. Nearby Chatzḗs serves a mean rice pudding as well as buffalo milk ice cream and other dessert specialties.

Meatropoleos 3 is located at 3, Mitropoleos, Athina 105 57, Greece.

Savvas (Σάββας)

Greek Souvlaki at Savvas in Athens Greece

Although Savvas serves a full range of souvlaki options, they are famous for their kebabs.

Right near Monastiraki Square, Savvas is a multi-story souvlaki restaurant where diners can eat on the front sidewalk, inside the restaurant or on the roof. We chose to eat a kebab at a high-top table just outside the restaurant since we were in a bit of a rush, though the prime seats are on the roof where the Acropolis is in full view.

Savvas sources its meat from its own production unit. Though the restaurant serves different types of souvlaki and other Greek food favorites, kebab is the thing to order here – it’s the restaurant’s specialty. You can get it on a platter, in a pita or topped with yogurt.

Pro Tip: You can satisfy your late-night and early-morning souvlaki cravings at Savvas. This Athens souvlaki shop is open from 9 am to 4 am every day of the week.

Savvas is located at Ermou 91, Athina 105 55, Greece.

Hoocut

Greek Souvlaki at Hoocut in Athens Greece

The ingredients in Hoocut’s gyros are just a little better than found in typical Athens gyros.

Opened by five chefs in 2018, Hoocut is decades younger than its Athens souvlaki peers. However, don’t discount this souvlaki upstart just off Agia Irini square where the popular street food is elevated with fresh ingredients and thoughtful preparation. At Hoocut, meat options include pork, chicken, beef, lamb and minced beef which can be ordered with pita, in pita or over french fries.

For our meal, we opted to try two of Hoocut’s ‘true pita’ sandwiches. Mindi ate the lamb version with tzatzki, spicy sauce, tomato and onion, whereas Daryl ate the beef version, which reminded him of a Philly Cheesesteak, topped with spicy sauce, tomato, yogurt and onion. Though the pita sandwiches were smaller than many others in the city, we both agreed that they were delicious though we disagreed as to which was better.

Pro Tip:  Don’t expect french fries inside your true pita sandwiches at Hoocut. (The chefs purposely leave them off.) You’ll need to order a side if you want shoestring fried potatoes with your sandwich.

Hoocut is located at Pl. Agias Irinis 9, Athina 105 63, Greece.

Souvlaki Leivadia (Σουβλάκι Λειβαδιά)

Greek Souvlaki at Leivadia in Athens Greece

We shared this platter with kalamaki and fries at Souvlaki Leivadia.

This Souvlaki joint just off Omonia Square is a decent choice if you’re looking for a quick cheap sharable bite and happen to be passing through the neighborhood. €5.oo will get you a plate of three skewers of pork grilled over charcoal with fries and a bottomless bowl of bread, a good deal even for Athens.

You’ll likely also experience some fun local Athens characters milling around the square during your meal. One thing about Athens – the locals are never afraid to talk. It’s not uncommon for 30-second conversation to stretch into 30 minutes.

Pro Tip: Don’t be insulted by surly service at Souvlaki Leivadia. During our meal, we were berated for calling call skewers kalamaki (which is what they are).

Souvlaki Leivadia is located at Kaniggos 2, Athina 106 77, Greece.

Neighborhood Souvlaki Shops

Greek Souvlaki at Theikon Grill House in Athens Greece

Don’t be afraid to order souvlaki at neighborhood shops in Athens. We ate this beauty at Theikon Grill House near the central market.

Shhh. We’re about to tell you a dirty little secret…

Though some Athens gyros and souvlaki shops are better than others, they’re all superior to shops outside of Greece. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Locals take their souvlaki very seriously in Athens, so a bad souvlaki shop wouldn’t stay in business for long.

In addition to eating at Athens’ best and most famous souvlaki shops, we also followed our noses into souvlaki shops adjacent to the Central Market and in the Pagrati neighborhood near our Airbnb apartment. To our pleasant surprise, we ate excellent gyros and kebabs for very reasonable prices at both.

Pro Tip:  Don’t be afraid to eat souvlaki off the map in Athens. If you see locals eating at a shop, it’s probably worth a visit. Plus, at under €3, it’s a low-risk proposition.

Neighborhood souvlaki shops are located all over Athens.

Further Afield

Greek Souvlaki at Kalamaki in Mykonos Greece

Plan to eat souvlaki as you travel around Greece. We ate this souvlaki in Mykonos.

We get it. You are probably visiting various islands during your time in Greece. We did too.

If you’re worried about finding good Greek souvlaki outside of Athens, you can stop worrying now. Souvlaki is available all over Greece. And, like the neighborhood Athens souvlaki shops, it’s better than any souvlaki you will find outside of Greece.

As an example, we ate tasty gyros at Kalamaki Mykonos on the island of (you guessed it) Mykonos. Though right in the heart of the tourist center, the souvlaki house served us large, made-to-order gyros that didn’t break our bank. As our YouTube followers already know, the server even danced with Daryl when he paid the check for our meal at the end of the meal.

Pro Tip:  Not sure where to find the best souvlaki when you arrive at a new Greek city or island? Ask a local for their favorite local souvlaki spot.

Kalamaki Mykonos is located at ΧΩΡΑ, Mikonos 846 00, Greece.


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Check out this ultimate Athens Souvlaki Guide for the best spots to eat Greek souvlaki in Athens Greece. If you're looking for the best places to eat kalamaki skewers, gyros and kebabs in Athens - this is the guide for you! #Athens #Greece #Souvlaki #Gyros

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Comments

  1. Wow wow wow! This looks so good! I absolutely love gyros! For some reason, when I went to Greece, most places put fries in their gyros and I was so confused. Perhaps I should’ve asked a local for their favorite place, like you recommend :).

  2. Yummy post! I love gyros and love the idea of adding chips to it!! I’ve never been to Greece, but when I do i’ll be looking up some of these!

  3. Thanks for all the great suggestions! Souvlaki is so amazing in Greece…and saganaki too!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is the most comprehensive souvlaki guide I’ve ever read and I am Greek! I bet you had fun trying them out 🙂

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