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Chania Restaurants

Nikos Tsepetis, epicurian owner of the Hotel Ammos, Chania, CreteNikos Tsepetis is not only the owner and manager of the popular Ammos Hotel . He is also a lover of good Greek food, as he should be. The Ammos hotel has one of the best restaurants you will find in an hotel. Forget what you have heard about lousy food in hotel restaurants. The Ammos has two middle-aged Greek ladies cooking traditional Cretan dishes using local vegetables, meat, fish and of course the excellent olive oil which the island is famous for. These are his favorite restaurants in Chania and the surrounding area with a few of my own recommendations that I snuck in here in a not very subtle way. Nikos took us out to eat for lunch the day we arrived and every night after that until we left, except one because he said we wore him out. (later he changed his mind and called us to see where we were going but we had already eaten in a place that we found that turned out to be not as good as any of the restaurants Nikos took us too. My last meal with Nikos was a classic. He brought me the best souvlaki in Chania when he met me at Starbucks for breakfast. I could not have made this page without him and actually he was the one who suggested many of the places we went on our trips out of Chania. So let me say thanks to Nikos by saying that if you need a hotel on the beach in Chania and you want the owner to be helpful and knowledgeable stay with him at the Ammos Hotel and this will probably be your best holiday ever.

tamam restaurant, chania crete

Rega salad at platanos

white tarama salata

chania restaurants

The Classic Chania Restaurants

Tamam:
This is by far the most successful tavern for the last 20 years, located in an old Turkish bath, amazing interiors and a wide range of yummy mezedes at a fairly good rate. I brought Matt here and he loved it but with all the tsikoudia he was drinking they could have served raw onions on paximadia (dried bread) and he would have been happy. But his wife Andrea, a much more difficult customer loved it as well and you probably will too. Its easy to find in the old harbor on Zambeliou which is the street behind the road that lines the harbor, on the west side of the port near the Jewish quarter. Their phone number is 2821096080 in case you want to make reservations which is not a bad idea if you come here in the summer.

Well of the Turk
In the interesting, and less touristy, area of Splatzia (where the Turks used to live a century ago), this Middle Eastern eatery is again one of the most famous, and rightly so. An absolute must, for the beautiful interiors, the serene yard which stays calm even in August and for the eggplant balls, trinity dip, cheese cake (with Anthotyros cheese). We were to visit here with Matt on his last night in Chania but he decided instead to take the ferry from Heraklion so he could meet his friend Lefteris, the Cretan Taxi Driver who he had known for 15 years without ever seeing in person. Well, that's another story which I am sure that Matt will go into in that entertaining way he has of making the most boring situation sound like the most exciting. As for the restaurant, if you are looking for a change from your usual Greek cuisine this is a good choice and the outdoor seating on the quiet back street is very nice. Its on Kalinikou Sarpaki 1-3, Splatzia, old city tel. 2821054547

Karnagio
One of the most respected, traditional Cretan food restaurants in Chania (again for the last 20 and more years). In a nice atmospheric location, very near but not on the waterfront, Karnagio is a secure option for those who want to sample the traditional Cretan cuisine the same way that a Greek would. It is also perfect for lunch. Try the boureki (zucchini and mizithra cheese pie). Platia Katehaki 8, old harbour, +2821053366

The New Restaurants of Chania

Monastiri
A very successful, occasionally unsteady quality, local taverna with a great advantage: the best views towards the Venetian light house and the west part of the old harbour. It is always quite busy with tourists and locals…. and like all the best restaurants is open year round except for those that are surprisingly closed in the summer which is the opposite of what you might expect. Its just a short distance from the Mosque of Kioutsouk Mosque with a big sign that makes it easy to find. Matt did not like the tablecloths or the fancy glasses and did not want to eat here but on the waterfront you really want find the simple working-class fish tavernas he favors, just those that cater to the tourists from abroad and from Athens and a few of the locals who want a semi fancy night out. Still the food is favorably reviewed in most guidebooks though whether they all actually eat there or just copy the first person who wrote about it is one of those industry secrets, at least according to Mr Barrett.

Semiramis
Live Greek music in a garden in the heart of the old city. Food is adequately good, there is a touristy ambiance which some find enchanting and for some (including me) it is kind of a turn-off (but I guess that comes with the live music). 8 Skoufon street, old harbor, tel 2821098650

Kariatis
Successful Italian cuisine with a Greek touch. Good fresh salads come in generous portions and the pizza is probably the best in town (try one from their gourmet selection). Service can be pretentious and arrogant at times (still they are quite polite especially with foreigners). The only restaurant in town with a decent Italian wine list. You can find it by walking towards the inner harbor and it is right around the Venetian Arsenals. They usually leave their colorful brochures in all the hotels and that has a map so you can find it. Lots of seafood dishes, some with lobster and others with langoistines and scallops and vegetarian risotto made with wild porcini mushrooms and truffles. They have a sister restaurant called
Zafferano around 14 kilometers west on the coast in Platanias near the Minoa Palace Hotel for those of you not staying in Chania. Tel 2821055600 for Kariatis and 2821038180 for Zafferano. For the best Italian food try Don Rosario's who is a crazy Italian from Sicily who makes the best south Italian spaghetti. It is so popular that people literally fly to Chania to try his cooking. Ask for the sun dried tuna fillet. Call before you go as it might be full (and avoid it in weekends). Challenging (but rewarding) drive at Rabdouha beach on the west side of the Rodopou Peninsula. Call 2824023781

Safran
Trendy European and Mediterranean cuisine with stylish interiors and ambitious (too ambitious at times) menu. The location is unbeatable and it is kind of perfect for a romantic dinner (avoid the fish dishes). Akti Tompazi 30, Old harbour, +2821056333

Fish tavernas in the inner harbor, Chania, Crete

gavros-anchovies, fish taverna chania

Fish taverna, chania

soupia, cuttlefish, psaro taverna chania

The Fish Restaurants of Chania

Fresh fish is an expensive sport in modern Greece. Per kilo expect to pay between 40.00 to 60.00 euros for the better fish. Calamari, octopus, gopa, and small fish (e.g.: sardines, gavros, marides) are always well priced and are delicious fried or grilled and are usually the most fresh. Remember that fish goes very well with horta (boiled greens) and in Chania we have many different types depending on the season.

Xilouris (Ta Neoria)
Reliable fish and  sea food eatery.  Located on the water-front and favored by the locals (Greeks) this taverna is busy always (even on a Monday night in the winter). This was the first place in town I brought Matt and he seemed to like it a lot. We ordered a variety of fresh grilled fish which is not cheap but Matt seemed to be enamoured with the white taramasalata and the tsikoudia of course. Nice assortment of bottled wines though as with any restaurant the local wine served by the kilo is the best for saving money and often does not suffer in comparison. Matt claims that you are more likely to have a hangover from commercial bottled wine, no matter how lofty the reputation, than from the homemade stuff from the barrel, the box or wherever it comes from. My reply to Matt is that if he did not drink so much he would not have to worry about a hangover and could enjoy good wine for the taste. But I don't think he is the type who is concerned with the subtlties in the taste of fine wines. He does not have, how shall I say it without being too insulting... a refined pallatte, at least when it comes to wine. As for food he does seem to know his stuff and he claims that his meal at
Tsipouradiko of Stelios Mastourakis just a few restaurants down was just as good though I wonder if he bases that on the fact that he liked their white taramasalata better or the fact that it was right next to his hotel. Well if you have to pick one who are you going to believe, someone from Chania or Matt Barrett? But you of course if you have more than one or two nights here you can try them both. They are both between the Venetian Arsenal (Shipyards) and the Hotel Porto Veneziano, the tallest building in the Harbor. And Matt claims the cafeneon at the end of nearby Salpidonos street is a nice quiet place to have a drink before or after dinner. I prefer the less quiet cafe-bars on the street and if you are closer to my age than to Matt's you probably will too. It is customary for the restaurant to give you a complimentary desert, usually fruit or halvah but sometimes you even get loukoumades. They also will serve a complimentary glass of tsikoudia at the end and sometimes even a battle which in Matt's case is like throwing gasoline on a fire. But like the Italian's serving grappa it really is a nice way to end the meal.

Manos Fish Taverna
This also very popular fish taverna is located in the pretty (and very modern Greek style) Nea Chora beach, ten minutes walk from the old harbor. It is right on the waterfront and in the afternoon you have picturesque views of the fish boats while the guys download their catch! Matt will probably tell you to try the
Mezedopoulio Stavros right next door, not that he actually ate there. He had dinner with me at Manos and really enjoyed it and made friends with the waiter as he seems to have a knack for doing, but I saw him wander off and peer longingly through the window at the Stavros because it has more of that working class, hard raki-drinking atmosphere that he likes. You can do him a favor and if you have an extra day or so and the Manos is full go try it for him and let him know if it is good. Both restaurants are at Akti Papanikoli, which is the coastal road in Nea Chora, which you can get to by walking along the waterfront of the old port and go past the Maritime Museum and the walls of the city and just keep walking past the public swimming pool until the buildings start looking new and you will find them. Tel 2821086055

Thalassino Ageri
Best location of all – this is a truly spectacular setting which seems like coming out of the pages of Conde Nast Traveler! Tables literally on the rocks, with a panoramic view to the entire harbor area and the old and abandoned leather factories (Tabakaria) as a backdrop. Very popular by wealthy Greeks. I forgot to take Matt here. It either slipped my mind or maybe subconsciously I did not want him to put it on his site. Anyway here it is. Its on Vivilaki street in the Halepa neighborhood which is east of Koum Kapi. Tel 28210 51136

Alikampiotis Taverna, Chania, Crete

taverna in the market, chania, crete

paidakia, chania, crete

Meat Restaurants of Chania

Kypros
For the last 20 years this is a classic joint, beautifully located in the main square of the cute Mournies village (4 km away from Chania center), a perfect place for meat lovers. Try the keftedes (meatballs), greek salad, tzatziki and French fries combination and enjoy watching fat spoiled Greek children running around while the parents smoke, drink and eat. You will probably need to take a taxi here and back if you don't have a car but it should not cost much and can be easily arranged by your hotel. The restaurant can arrange a cab for your return.

Alikampiotis Taverna
You will probably be one of the very few tourists ever to visit this temple of cheap, good meat in the area of Agios Ioannis, a nice residential neighborhood of the modern city of Chania. Stelios, one of the owners, has a very dark-Greek sense of humor but loves basketball. In fact once Matt began talking to him we could not get him out of the taverna. Nice local wine, paidakia (lambchops), hirini brizoles (porkchops), keftedes (meatballs), the horta that is necessary at every Greek meal, fava (mashed split-peas) all served in this very family run and family visited neighborhood taverna. Again you will need a taxi to come here and even if you have a car I suggest taking a taxi because you may never find it otherwise. You can call for directions. Its at  Platia Dexamenis, tel 2821040271

Matt suggests you try the restaurants in the Public Market too because the people that the restaurants buy the meat from also eat in the restaurant so it has to be fresh.

Kali Kardia taverna, Afrata, Crete

horiatiki salata, crete

cheese kalitsounia from Kati Alo in Sfinari

goat from Kali Kardia restaurant, Afrata, Crete

Charming Small Village Tavernas

Kali Kardia
Kali Kardia (which means good heart in Greek) is a genuinely good hearted place with cheap, uncomplicated, cooked by an old couple food and served in 70s house china. The décor is surreal-kitch and that only adds up to the charm (a favorite of Matt Barrett’s). Make sure you take a peak at their traditional kitchen. Matt recommends anything made with goat or served with roast potatoes. To find this place just take the National Road west and follow the signs to Kolimbari and then the village of Afrata which is so small you can't help but find it. Matt says be sure to drink the wine and eat the small Cretan olives and graviera cheese and be sure you order the Pilafi. If you get lost and speak Greek call 2824022077.

Ntounias and Amilias
Ntounias (which means damn world in Greek) is another fascinating find. You drive through the beautiful gorge of Therisso and you find yourself in what Greece might have looked like 50 years ago. The owner is an avid talker (have that in mind before you get into a endless conversation). You must expect that the owner takes you in to show you his brand new kitchen (he does that with everyone). There are two very nice historical museums in town, one for the war of Independence and the other for World War Two so be sure to visit them. Matt wants you to eat at
Amilias which is in the next village of  Zourva which also has delicious traditional Cretan food served by an old woman named Amilia and her children who are adults actually. Try the Staka or Anthogalo, not recommended for people with high cholesterol as it is the creamiest of milk products but like eating liquid cheese. Nice fresh salads and a great view.

Iliovasilema (Sunset)
One of my favorite destination for good fresh fish (2 brothers, one serves fish and the other fishes the fish and the mother cooks) in an old fashioned setting, right by the water. It is nicely combined with a day excursion to Falasarna or Elafonissi beach. Its on the beach at Sfinari on the west coast of Crete, not to be mistaken with the main village of Sfinari which overlooks the beach from the mountain above where Matt went instead, in spite of my SMS message which told him implicitly where to eat. He claims he forgot and instead went to a little roadside family run roadside restaurant called To Kati Alo which he said was simple and good and a true non-tourist experience. He says to ask for their cheese kalitsounia or a potato, tomato and feta omelet.

Milia Restaurant
Milia is the most famous mountain retreat in Greece, and rightly so. It is worth for a short visit to try their amazing organic products local cuisine in their restaurant. Again nicely combined with Falasarna and Elafonissi beach. Challenging drive and you have to leave the beach early if you want to stop here on the way home. You can also just drive up here for lunch and skip the beach if you like. They have some really nice home-made tsikoudia which you can sample and if they have not run out you can probably buy some. They also sell some nice homemade wine and a lot of agricultural products that they grow and make including their extra-virgin olive oil which is quite good.

Aidonisos:
A very nice, and very well thought off, effort to modernize Greek cuisine with love, knowledge and fine materials. Try the hand cut and fried in olive oil potatoes topped with piquant “Ipiros” feta cheese and oregano. Its in the village of Gerani which is off the National Road on the way to Kissamos about half way to Rodopou. Tel 28210 83560

cretan olives

fried potatoes

Cretan Graviera Cheese

octopus

Extra Food Stuff in Chania

For locals the best souvlaki place is Oasis, a small joint that works only when the surround shops are open and serves a smallish and light  souvlaki (Tzanakaki Street, opposite National bank). A decent souvlaki can also be found in any of the souvlaki places in the 1866 Square. Chania is famous for it’s bougatsa which is different from the bougoutsa  in other part of Greece). The original Chania bougatsa (the one with mizithra cheese) is from Iordanis (right across the KTEL buses entrance). If you are wines friend and keen to know more about Greek wines then visit Miden Agan (70 Daskalogianni str, +2821027068) or/and their wine tapas bar 36 (Kalinikou Sarpaki str, old harbor, +302821057590). Matt recommends you visit the restaurants at the Public Market which are open for lunch and if you have a hangover try their patsa and if not just choose anything that looks good. His wife Andrea recommends Cusina E.P.E.”(pronounced Eppay), a hip little restaurant located at 25 Thaskalogianni (Plateia 1821), with excellent home cooked food, that is only open in the day. They also say to try Platanos which is the former old man cafeneon of the square which has been converted into a trendy mezedopoulion-ouzeri with a very large menu with cheap but satisfying portions of mezedes and main dishes. Try their rega (herring) salad for starters and their different types of saganaki, (melted cheese). If you go for that ouzo-meze thing and palio rembetika music then you can also try Mesogiako and For Anna, both on Daliani street in Splantzia. In Crete they have a special kind of tiropita called Kalitsounia which they make with greens or with mizithra cheese. Try them. Also the local wine from around Chania which is called Romeiko is a local and ancient variety of grape and the wine is kind of peach colored with a slight sherry taste. Its pretty unique, often totally organic and can be really good. Tsikoudia and Raki are the same thing and in terms of purity are probably the most natural thing you can drink in Greece. Some people drink it before a meal, some drink it after and some people drink it before, after and during, like Matt for example. Don't forget that Cretan graviera cheese is the best graviera in Greece so you should get some from one of the cheese shops in the Public Market. Cretan olive oil, sausages and the small Cretan olives are all especially good. And there are no better fried potatoes in the world than what you will get in Chania. Remember that no meal is complete with fried potatoes and if they are cooked in fresh olive oil there is nothing unhealthy about them. Also order the dakos salad when they have it instead of the horiatiki salad. Its healthier. Try the askralimbi, a kind of horta(wild green) that tastes better than it looks. The saligari are your common edible garden snails and Matt says if you have the choice get them stewed and not deep fried. He also says whenever you get the chance, eat goat.

I hope this makes your stay in Chania more enjoyable. If you like good home cooking come to visit my hotel where we have one of the best beach restaurants in the area.
Nikos Tsepetis
Ammos Hotel  

See Also Dianne Louis Farr's Guide to Cretan Food

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