Athens is a city blessed with an every-growing array of places to eat at. However, when searching for a place to munch, it can seem that everything in this city is about meat. Is there anything for folks on the vegetarian spectrum? Fortunately, yes. Animal-free dining is on the rise in Athens, with many establishments offering a wide range of tasteful vegan/vegetarian food options to satisfy your conscience (and tastebuds).
When in the city center, stop for lunch at Avocado (Nikis 30), a vegetarian restaurant in Syntagma. Avocado offers grain dishes, pizzas, and hors d’oeuvres suitable both for strict vegans (“Vibrant vegan”, a cheeseless pizza made with whole-wheat flour and topped with various veggies) and lacto-vegetarians (eggplant rolls roasted with fresh herbs and Greek cheeses). There’s also an array of colorful sandwiches, including burgers made with mushroom-parmesan patties and served with a side of tortilla chips or sweet potato flakes. The store’s eponymous veggie runs riot all over the menu, from the pennes with avocado, cream, zucchini, and olives, to the adorable “Beautiful Day” salad with baby spinach, avocado, sunflower seeds and seasonal sprouts.
Craving something vegan after a downtown shopping spree? Haul your bags to Vegan Nation (Ermou 86), a brand-new vegan café on Athens’s biggest retail street. This minimally decorated, airy cafe serves up a culturally eclectic mix of dishes completely free from animal products. The star of their menu is a vegan moussaka, made with soy meat, coconut milk, cashews and eggplant. Other vegan-ized Greek classics include soutzoukakia (spicy meatballs) made from lentils, tomato sauce, and earthy spices. For those days you need an extra hot kick, zero in on their chicken korma, yellow Thai curry, or Brazilian feijoada (featuring red beans and marinated tofu). You can even indulge in a vegan burger, fajita, or spaghetti; top it off with a sugar-free vegan cheesecake or chocolate mousse with avocado.
Further downtown is Mama Tierra on Akademias 84. Awarded a Michelin Plate this year, Mama Tierra has a genuinely earthy feel. One of their most beloved dishes is their falafels, served up either in a platter with Arabic pita, tabbouleh salad, and three kinds of dip, or in a tortilla wrap with eggplant dip, red cabbage, tahini sauce, tomato and onion. Also well-known is their mushroom-patty burger, served with vegan cheese and homemade vegan mayonnaise (you can also get a vegetable patty, mixed from sweet potatoes, organic quinoa, and the like). Many of the menu’s offerings are also listed as gluten-free; but don’t think for one minute that they’re boring (anyone for mixed veggies with curry and coconut milk, potatoes with barbecue sauce, or oven-baked nachos with black bean dip?).
Finally, Pure Juice Bar on Sina 21, in the upscale Kolonaki neighborhood, is the perfect spot for the wandering traveler in need of some healthy refreshment. At Pure you can get your brews custom-made or pick from a wide variety of fruity concoctions, including one that claims to promote a clearer complexion (featuring aloe vera, cucumber, spinach, and green apple) and one that claims to boost memory (via banana, green apple, and coconut milk). Treats available for a grab-and-go snack include a range of raw energy bars made with dates, nuts, and berries of every stripe (though strict vegans should keep an eye out for some items that use honey or bee pollen). Pure is well-versed in its superfoods, with acai powder, flax seeds and goji berries sprinkled throughout the menu. They even have some meat sandwiches for your non-vegan friend in need of a nibble.
Stay tuned for more on the delicious side of Athens!