If you are one of the lucky people headed to the spectacular Greek island of Santorini, get ready to enjoy food that rivals the stellar views.
Over the last year we visited Santorini three times to prepare for and then celebrate our wedding. Food lovers that we are, we wanted to sample as many restaurants as possible so that we could pass along recommendations to our guests, and focussed primarily on the village of Oia, the site of our wedding.
Here are our top picks for the best places to eat on Santorini (just click on the names to visit their websites):
1) Best sunset dining: Ochre Wine Bistro (Oia)
Ochre gets first mention because it was the site of our wedding reception, and as such has a special place in our hearts. Its killer combination of view, food, and serene ambiance put us over the edge, and we have a feeling it will do the same for you.
As you can see from the photo, the view is out of this world. Oia is famous for spectacular sunsets, and Ochre is the best place to enjoy them because of its location at the northernmost tip of the island. You’ll feel like you’re perched on the edge of the world, surrounded by airy, modern decor and thankfully removed from the hoardes of tourists that crowd the paths of Oia for a glimpse of the setting sun.
We recommend asking Panos for a glass of Sigalas’ Assyrtiko/Athiri white wine, locally produced from an indiginous grape that favors the volcanic island soil.
2) Best authentic fishermen’s port dining: Sunset Taverna (Ammoudi Port, Oia)
Manifest your Greek tourist fantasy by eating fresh seafood from a quaint, working fishing port as the lights of Oia glisten from hundreds of feet above.
Almost everything is caught fresh daily, except for tourist favorites like calamari which will be frozen during the off season. Don’t hesitate to ask, or even to view the fish selection before choosing. Then sit back to enjoy fish so fresh it flakes apart with the slightest touch of your fork.
A word to the wise: when choosing your fish, have it weighed so you can estimate the price.
3) Best hidden gem: Metaxi Mas (Exo Gonia)
This is a little-known, out of the way ouzeria built into a cave, except that reservations are a must because it’s always packed. Trust us: Make the hike and you’ll never look back.
You’ll find several varieties of ouzo and raki (a local specialty liquor) along with truly outstanding homemade dishes (many from Crete), and finish with complimentary hot raki sweetened with honey and accompanied by ice cream.
They offer the kind of menu where you really can’t go wrong, but we’re happy to offer up some of our favorites in case you just can’t decide: Cretan salad with chunks of bread; sauteed fresh, wild mushrooms; sauteed dandelions; grilled prawns; and beef cooked with local vinsanto wine.
4) Best gourmet experience: 1800 (Oia)
On the main pedestrian path of Oia there’s an old ship captain’s house with the number 1800 above the door. That’s the place to be if you’re ready to treat yourself to the island’s premier fine dining experience.
Don’t come here for a view (available only from the rooftop garden), but rather for heavenly culinary creations, creative presentation, impeccable service, and a cozy, candelit setting. The restaurant subscribes to the slow food ethos, meaning you’ll be eating fresh, local ingredients that are homemade and carefully prepared.
5) Best all around: Kandouni (Oia)
Enjoy the chance to get away from the wind, wandering through the back streets down to this charming hideaway (often spelled “Candouni,” like the sign on their door, though their website says “Kandouni”). How charming is it? Location scouts for the film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants must have thought it looked like a quintessential Greek eatery, because several scenes were shot here.
Family-run by a dynamic team (parents cook while their children tend to the customers), theirs is the kind of feel-good story you like to write home about. The family left Canada to return to their roots and share their love of international foods with the many people that step across the threshold (reservations recommended).
There’s tons of heart in the place. These are the kind of people who will walk you home if you’re lost, come out of the kitchen to visit during your meal, or stop by to wish you luck on a special day (personal experience). It comes through in the cooking, like with the melt-in-your-mouth salt-crusted sea bass, and in the people you see around you, who almost certainly have been there before or will be returning again.
6) Best restaurant we never tried: Ambrosia
Our guests went out to do their own exploring, and came back with an almost universal recommendation: Ambrosia. One couple told another who told another, and before we knew it, it seemed like everybody had visited but us. Sadly, time didn’t allow for us to see for ourselves (yet!), but let’s just say our guests are STILL talking about this place. What makes it so special? Apparently it’s a combination of THE best view and THE most amazing food. Pretty simple, right? Sounds like a winner in our book.
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