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.
Green beans (in Greek “fasolakia prasina“) are the pods of unripe beans which are considered vegetables although technically are legumes. The pods of green beans are tender and the beans contained are tiny, so the pods prevail in quantity and taste. Green beans cooked in fresh tomato juice (what else!) together with potatoes is the most typical Cretan summery dish. Of course the dish contains generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil. There is no summer in Crete that does not involve regular (almost on a weekly basis!) eating of green beans. Green beans is a casual dish that is ideal for the high temperatures of the Cretan summer, as it is light and refreshing. This dish is one of the cornerstones of the extremely rich Cretan vegan cuisine.
The health benefits of Cretan green beans and recipe are found here!
Hasika (in Greek “Χάσικα”) is a Cretan gourmet restaurant that raises the culinary standards of the city of Rethymno. It offers small meze-style dishes that are easily shared, based on local ingredients. The place has a warm and cozy ambience and combines traditional with modern elements in its decor. The menu comprises smaller dishes that can act as starters, rich salads and more substantial meat and seafood dishes that can be ordered as mains. Meat dishes are mainly based on pork or beef. The smoked pork with chickpeas and the beef liver we tried were exceptional. Highlight of the seafood dishes are squid and octopus, prepared in creative ways. The ingredients are locally sourced from all over the island. The chef combines his ingredients in creative ways resulting in well-balanced tastes without letting you forget that you are having Cretan food! The outcome is gourmet Cretan cuisine of very high standard.
Squash (in Greek “kolokitha“) is a summer vegetable looking like something between a courgette and a big watermelon (note that there are several varieties of squash like the butternut squash or the pumpkin). The Cretan squash grows throughout summer and ends up huge (weighs several kilograms) in autumn when it is harvested (usually between end of September and October). It is consumed either pan fried (sliced and sprinkled with flour) or as the main ingredient of pies. There are two types of squash pies, one is savoury (eaten as main dish or starter) and the other is sweet (eaten as dessert or snack). Here we will talk about the savoury version of the pie. Squash has a natural sweetness which matches perfectly with the saltiness of the feta and graviera cheese added in the pie. This is wrapped between delicious filo pastry to produce an unforgettable Cretan pie that anyone would crave for. Every time we visit a Cretan vegetable garden (there are always squashes growing!) we become apprehensive of the time when the squashes we see become delicious pies. We provide below a great recipe for a squash pie that evokes happ
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.
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, both in terms of flavour and its health benefits, is a combination of three kinds of wholemeal flour (“aleuri olikis”), namely spelt (“aleuri zeas”), rye (“aleuri sikalis”) and wheat flour (“starenio aleuri“). Below we provide a generic recipe for making bread in the traditional hand made way 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.
Okra (“bamies”) is one of Crete’s favourite vegetable full of health benefits. Okra has a lot of devoted fans in Crete although in the rest of Greece less so. Okra is mainly found around the Mediterranean and is rare in other places. Cretans usually eat okra as a vegan dish cooked with tomato juice, although it can be also combined with chicken or fish. Okra has a sticky texture and fairly sweet taste which becomes delicious with tomato sauce. It is a very summery dish, light and refreshing. It evokes childhood memories of long and hot summers when we went for swimming in the turquoise Cretan seas. The usual question when we returned home was ‘what’s on for lunch’? When our mother’s or grandmother’s answer was’okra’ we always exclaimed with pleasure; what a perfect end to a Cretan summer experience!