Santorini isn’t just a feast for the eyes; it’s a feast for the palate. The island is blessed with dazzling light and fertile volcanic soil, which help to produce tasty agricultural products, making the island’s Greek dishes all the better. An added bonus? The views at most restaurants and eateries are incredible — spanning from the whitewashed hilltop towns and a panorama of the sea to the depths of the island’s sunken caldera.
Once you cruise in you’ll realize Santorini isn’t any ordinary port of call. Cruise ships dock at the bottom of the 1,000-foot-high cliffs. There isn’t a cruise terminal, so visitors are tendered to shore, where they make their way up to the closest town (and capital of Santorini) called Fira (either by foot, cable car or mule ride). The towns of Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia follow north, perched one after the other on the cliff tops. As you are off exploring Santorini’s caldera towns, here are the top 10 must-try foods and drinks.
Santorini produces delicious and flavorful cherry tomatoes thanks to the texture, minerals and nutrients of the island’s volcanic soil. As a result, domatokeftedes, which translates to tomato fritters, are a local favorite and specialty. The tomatoes are dipped in a flour batter and then fried. Some variations include the addition of feta cheese and various Greek spices such as oregano and parsley. They are sometimes served with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Where to Find It: Santorini’s tomato fritters are especially mouthwatering at the famous Santorini tavern called Naoussa, located near the Central Orthodox Cathedral.
A truly local Santorini dish is a dip called fava. However, fava has nothing to do with fava beans; the recipe calls for yellow split peas. After they’re pureed, the creamy dip is typically served topped with chopped onions, fresh local capers and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Where to Find It: One of the best versions of this tasty, colorful spread can be found at Nikolas Tavern on Erithrou Stavrou Street in Fira.
Another delicious traditional Greek dip is melitzanosalata, a flavorful pureed eggplant dish. Locals claim this traditional vegetarian Greek dish is made best on Santorini, thanks to the white eggplants native to the island. The white eggplant is roasted then puréed with a perfect blend of Greek spices and makes for a scrumptious appetizer.
Where to Find It: To try some of the island’s best, head to Ampelos in Fira. The restaurant is located right next to the Metropolis Cathedral.
Horiatiki is the most popular salad in Greece. It’s also popular around the world and known as the “Greek salad.” The original version, as served in Greece, is always simple and incredibly fresh. It’s a mix of onion slices, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. It’s then topped with a sizable slice of crumbly sheep’s milk feta cheese. Olive oil and a sprinkling of oregano finish off the salad that completes every Greek table.
Where to Find It: Try the Greek salad served at Firostefani’s Villa Remvi, a restaurant known for excellent Greek dishes. It’s near St. Gerasimos church.
Italians have lasagna, and Greeks have moussaka. This slow-baked hearty casserole is a Greek-cuisine favorite. It features layers of spicy minced lamb with eggplant, potatoes and a creamy béchamel sauce.
Where to Find It: Aktaion, a traditional Greek tavern in Firostafani and near St. Gerasimos church, is known for having one of the best moussaka plates on the island.
Grown in uncultivated soil on the Greek islands, wild capers are known to have a sharper and more distinct taste than the cultivated versions. On Santorini, they pair perfectly with local island dishes. Capers are sprinkled on creamy dips like fava, served with feta cheese and olive oil, or featured in a fresh tomato house salad just like at 1500 BC, a whitewashed restaurant with a beautiful view in Fira.
Where to Find It: There is no official street name for the restaurant 1500 BC. The road is a small path off of Dekigala Street near Thira Art Gallery.
If you’re looking for something sweet, try the small cheese tartlets called melitinia, a local dessert specialty. Typically made for engagements and wedding parties, as well as religious festivals, these tasty palm-size sweets are made with Mitzithra, a Greek cheese produced from goat’s milk.
Where to Find It: Head to any bakery on the island to sample a few; you may end up buying an entire box worth.
Santorini has excellent seafood choices, ranging from grilled calamari to grilled octopus to fresh catches of the day. Seafood grilled Greek style is accompanied by wedges of lemon to squeeze over the meal with a side of extra virgin olive oil. Local tip: When ordering fresh fish, the price is per kilo. Also, in many restaurants, you can go into the kitchen to choose your fish first.
Where to Find It: Head to Argo in Fira if you love seafood. It has built a local reputation as one of the best seafood restaurants on the island. You’ll find it near the Tzamia-Krystalla Art Gallery on Marinatou Street.
Santorini is one of the oldest wine-producing areas in the world and has made a name for itself in the world of wines. Due to the nature of its volcanic soil, it produces a variety of grapes: Assyrtiko, Aidani, Athiri, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano. Vinsanto, produced on Santorini, is the star of Greek sweet wines. It combines the sweetness of overripe grapes with the acidity of Assyrtiko.
Where to Find It: Head to a scenic wine tasting at Domaine Sigalas in Oia to discover more about Santorini’s excellent wine production. It’s in a rural part of Oia, not walking distance from the port so it’s best reached via cab or a tour.
The all-time favorite Greek liquor is ouzo, which captivates the Greek spirit more than any other drink. This strong aniseed drink is typically served with a bowl of ice and water. Mix it all together and stir until it turns a milky white. Tip: Ouzo is sipped slowly and is usually accompanied by a small snack of bread and olives.
Where to Find It: Enjoy it at the famous cocktail bar and café in Fira called Franco’s Bar. It’s close to Agios Nikolaos Theotakaki church.