Ta 2 Rou (in Greek “Τα 2 Ρου”) is one of the most authentic, affordable and hospitable eateries to enjoy true Cretan cuisine with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Eating there is a culinary experience; the menu changes depending on what is available both in terms of the season (vegetables, wild mushrooms, bitter greens, cheese, meat) and also on the daily catch when it comes to seafood. In addition, the ambience is special, as the walls are covered by antique photos of life in Rethymno (some of them century old), easily resembling a folklore museum. Ta 2 Rou is a Cretan casual eatery (“inomagirio“) and an authentic meze restaurant (“mezedopolio“). Apart from normal dishes, smaller dishes to share are also served which greatly accompany raki or wine. Either way, Ta 2 Rou is one of the top places for immersing yourself into the authentic Cretan cuisine. As a rule of thumb, not to be missed are the meat and seafood based casseroles and stews, such as cuttlefish in greens and their ink (“soupies me chorta“), octopus in wine (“chtapodi krasato“) and goat cooked in olive oil and wine (“rifi tsigariasto“). The vegan crowd will also be really satisfied as the eatery always has vegan dishes on offer, such as rich salads, vegetable stews and legumes. The offered dessert is sumptuous and is comprised of fresh seasonal fruits and some truly delicious mizithra cheese (kind of Cretan ricotta) pie rolls with sugar and cinnamon (“tzevremedes“).
Chickpeas (in Greek “revithia“) are legumes (which are always gluten free) with amazing health benefits widely consumed all year round in Crete and other southern Greek islands. Cretans prepare chickpeas in the form of a delicious and filling vegan soup that is exemplary of the Cretan vegan diet. Unlike most Cretan dishes that are based on tomato juice, adding a sweetness to their taste, chickpea soup is based on lemon juice giving it some acidity which brings out the great starchy taste of chickpeas. This slight acidity could be masterfully balanced out to some extent with the addition of a tiny bit of flour which also thickens the soup (this is optional as it takes away the gluten free character of the dish). When I try to motivate people to include legumes in their diet, I always use this great dish as an example!
Taverna Zisis (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Ζήσης”) is an all time classic eatery in Rethymno where one can enjoy all facets of Cretan cuisine. The taverna is the biggest in size and also one of the oldest eateries in Rethymno. It offers a great multitude of Cretan dishes including traditional vegan Cretan cuisine, snails, pies, meat, Cretan barbecue and seafood. These can be ordered as mains or meze dishes to share (as most Cretans do). If you wish to quickly gain an understanding of Cretan food, this should be your fist stop! The taverna has a fixed a la carte menu and a large range of daily specials. Customers have the option to choose what to eat from the purpose-made food showcase of the taverna. As the taverna offers a great range of dishes, you need to visit it at least a few times to get a good impression of its cuisine. As regulars of the place, we usually start our meal with seasonal bitter greens which are nicely boiled and accompany well most Cretan dishes. As starters, we usually order some of the classic highlights of Taverna Zisis. We choose the juicy and soft stuffed vine leaves (“dolmadakia“), which are tender vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, accompanied with Cretan yoghurt. We also order the signature dish of pan fried and oven baked aubergine in tomato sauce (“melitzanes imam“), topped with grated cheese; easily one of the best executions of this really balanced dish. As mains various meat cuts and Cretan hamburgers on the barbecue are highly recommended. Same applies to meat or vegetable stews and casseroles. As dessert, the taverna brings delicious (although usually cold) doughnuts (“loukoumades“) topped with sesame and honey.
Taverna Othonas (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Όθωνας”) is one of our favourite choices in Rethymno for having an absolutely fulfilling and affordable meal involving creative cuisine while dining in style. It is greatly located bang on the old town centre of Rethymno and offers very pleasant ambience as well as great service. Apart from the standard menu dishes, the taverna also has daily specials. It is recommended to follow the advice of the chef and owner when ordering, who explains with pleasure about the daily specials and gives great recommendations regarding dishes and combinations. Taverna Othonas is really good at chargrilling fillets, such as pork, chicken or beef, and topping them with signature sauces that bring their taste to altogether different levels. We tried really succulent pork fillets in cherry sauce accompanied with a risotto and pork fillets in ouzo and mint sauce (called “Zorbas sauce”) accompanied with hearty mashed potatoes. The pork matched very well with the sweetness of the cherry. The intense taste of aniseed of the ouzo was balanced out by the pungence of mint and the outcome was a pleasure for the palate. Salads and starters are also not to be missed; “Ktima salad”, containing greens, tomatoes, avocado, apaki meat, slices of graviera cheese, pomegranate and pine seeds, is a classic. The feta pie in filo pastry, grape syrup, dried figs and sesame seeds, is also one of the signature starters. House wine is of exceptional quality and the offered dessert at the end is always a great surprise.
Taverna Argonautis (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Αργοναύτης”) is one of the best fish tavernas of Rethymno, located on the seaside boulevard (quite far from the centre). It is owned by a fisherman and his family who often cook their catch of the day. You must try the different types of fried fish. Certainly not to be missed is the grilled or pan-fried Mediterranean moray fish (“smerna“) fish, if available, and the fried courgette sticks (both being signature dishes of the fish taverna). Other fish worth trying is the mixed fried fish platter (“tiganopsara“), basically containing the daily catch. The taverna also offers bigger fish upon availability, such as red porgy (“fagri“), white sea bream (“sargos“) or greater amberjack fish (“magiatiko“), which are ideal for chargrilling. In winter months expect nice homemade desserts as treats. Service is very friendly and prices are reasonable. In general, do not miss this place if you want to try Cretan fish.
Taverna Alekos (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Αλέκος”) is a unique village taverna in the area of Rethymno, offering authentic meat-based Cretan cuisine with a creative touch. The taverna always offers a set menu, meaning that you do not order; the food comes to you, which is quite rare for Crete. The food is of exceptional quality and the offered food quantity (number of dishes and portions) is huge. The set menu always comprises salads, appetizers, casserole dishes and stews (served as starters) which vary depending on the day. A complete Cretan barbecue comprising hamburgers (some of the best you can have in Crete!) and steaks is always served as main accompanied with housemade French fries. The indoor area of the taverna is cozy, dominated by stone walls which gives it a rustic and friendly ambience. Taverna Alekos is highly recommended for tasting rustic Cretan cuisine with creative touches. It also offers great value for money. Please make sure though that you are really hungry before going to this taverna, as the offered food quantity is huge!
There is nothing more basic in a diet than bread. Therefore a healthy diet begins with healthy bread and Cretans eat a lot of it with every meal. The most traditional Cretan bread is the barley rusk (“dakos”) which is very difficult and time consuming to prepare at home. Apart from “dakos”, Cretans eat a great deal of whole grain bread. Our personal favourite whole grain bread is a combination of three kinds of wholemeal flour (“aleuri olikis”), namely spelt (“aleuri zeas”), rye(“aleuri sikalis”) and wheat flour (“starenio aleuri”). We provide a generic recipe for making bread with the use of bread maker that can be executed with any kind of flour suitable for baking. Note that the provided flour types and quantities used correspond to our own favourite flour and seed combination.
Taverna Galera (in Greek “Ταβέρνα Γαλέρα”) is an upscale taverna situated in one of the nicest seafront locations of the city of Rethymno. The taverna enjoys fabulous views of the city and the coast and is very pleasant both in winter and summer. We almost feel compelled to enjoy seafood at such great seafront location. The signature dish of Taverna Galera is the shrimp “kritharoto” (risoni pasta cooked in shrimp broth). The shrimp pasta (“garidomakaronada”) is also great. Cuttlefish with greens (“soupies me maratha”) is also a must try when available. Worth trying are also the smaller meze style dishes, such as wild green pies (“xortopites”) and the spicy feta dip (“tirokauteri”), which is a great accompaniment to seafood. In summary, this taverna is a great place to relax while enjoying a seafood or meat based Cretan style meal also offering wonderful views.
Fish has always been regarded as a truly healthy and nutritious food. It is a fantastic source of protein, vitamin D (important when you live in less sunny places!), as well as the best source of omega-3 fatty acids that lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Add to that the amazing properties of vegetables, such as carrots, onions, celery and tomatoes (full of fiber, vitamins and folate) and you get the ultimate health booster; the Cretan “Psarosoupa”, i.e., the Cretan fish and vegetable soup, prepared with egg-lemon broth (“avgokoma”). The open seas surrounding the island of Crete (especially the ones to the south!) are some of the best sources for clean and amazingly tasty fish. The Cretan soil is also heavenly for vegetable gardens. There could not be any greater and more balanced combination of what land and sea offers on this magical island.
Taverna Kompos is one of the all time classic tavernas in the greater Rethymno area in Crete; a heaven for meat lovers. Speciality are the various cuts of lamb on the barbecue, what I would call a “Cretan barbecue”. Beware that if you do not like meat there are two chances when you go to this taverna, you either change your mind (meat there is so great!) or you barely find anything substantial to eat. Truth to be said, meat is not the healthiest nutrition, however this taverna is worth for having a break from your healthy routine.