CRETAN FOOD

10 Things to Know Before Visiting Restaurants in Crete

restaurants in Crete-your what-to-know guide

restaurants in Crete

 

Why you should explore Cretan cuisine? Because it’s more than just food. It’s a journey into a rich cultural heritage and a celebration of its bountiful natural resources. The island offers a plethora of dining options from quaint tavernas to upscale restaurants. Here’s what you need to know before visiting restaurants on the island.

 

1. Make a reservation to visit restaurants in Crete in weekends

To avoid any inconvenience, it’s better to make a reservation if you’re planning to visit a restaurant during weekends. People in Crete love to gather together in weekends and enjoy lots of Cretan delicacies in restaurants. Especially during summer, which lasts longer in Crete, they prefer sitting outside to enjoy the nice breeze. So if you want to make a reservation you might want to specify that you want a get a table in the outdoor space of the restaurant.

 

2. Restaurants in Crete offer a little sweet treat

It’s very likely that you’ll get a tasty sweet treat at the end of your meal in restaurants. Usually, they serve yoghurt-based sweet desserts or just local yoghurt along with a variety of spoon sweets. Spoon sweets are made out of different kinds of fruits such as orange, quince, bergamot. But the most popular one on the island is made out of Cretan grapes (stafyli). That’s the typical little treat in Crete.

 

restaurants in Crete: 10 Things to Know

3. Is tipping in Greece mandatory?

While there is no strict rule about tipping in restaurants in Crete (and in all regions of Greece), it’s customary to leave a tip. The percent of tip is up to you, but you should always keep in mind that if you are happy with the service you have received in restaurants, coffee shops and bars it’s usual to leave a tip, for the waitstaff, of around 5-10% of the total bill. Tipping in Greece is always welcome and appreciated!

 

4. Always signal to the waiter to get you the bill

Once you’ve completed your meal, don’t forget to signal to the waitstaff for the bill. In Crete, people working in restaurants (waitstaff) are polite and discreet and they will probably just ask you if there is anything else you would like to order. All you have to do is to gently signal to the waitstaff and ask for the bill.

 

5. Try to share Cretan dishes in the middle of the table

When dining in Crete, its essential to understand the local dining culture. Cretans are known for their hospitality, and meals are often shared among friends and family. Dont be surprised if youre offered a complimentary dish! If you want to get close to the local food culture you can order a variety of dishes to share with your favorite ones in the middle of the table. That’s a typical thing that locals do to enjoy a meal in all different types of restaurants in Crete. Don’t forget that Cretan food is a lot more than unique flavors and dishes. It’s part of the culture and everyday life.

 

restaurants in Crete: Here's what you need to know

6. Food standards in Crete are really high

Crete is a must-visit food destination! The island carries a long culinary tradition which is an important, rich chapter of Greek cuisine. It’s not only about great restaurants and recipes. The island is self-sufficient when it comes to agricultural/farming and livestock activities providing all regions fo Greece with Cretan products of premium quality. Many restaurant owners have their own vegetable garden and collaborate with local producers. You’ll get to have more farm-to-table experiences while enjoying local dishes made out of fresh regional products, when visiting restaurants in Crete.

 

restaurants in Crete: A complete guide to read before your visit

 

7. There are at least 4 different kinds of restaurants in Crete

You won’t just find one type of restaurant on the island. Lots of options for you: from quaint family taverns serving traditional dishes at the core of Cretan cuisine to upscale restaurants offering classic Cretan tastes with a modern gastronomic touch.

But the heart of Crete when it comes to food spots is a special type of restaurant which is called “rakadiko”. Tsikoudia (also known as “raki”) is the local spirit drink of the island. It’s made exclusively from Cretan grapes and it has its own type of restaurant. Rakadiko is a casual type of restaurant where people gather together to enjoy a selection of Cretan delicacies while drinking a glass of tsikoudia (raki).

Eastern Crete, especially the small town of Sitia, is famous for the authentic mezedes served as accompaniments for tsikoudia (raki). A variety of small-sized dishes are served, that is also called “droseriko“, including tomatoes, cucumbers, Cretan rusk, graviera cheese and table olives. It may also include cabbage or white raddish. The word “droseriko” refers to the greek word “drosero” meaning something that gives a pleasant, fresh taste on the palate.

The fourth type of restaurant that you can find in Crete is the one specialized on the grilled meat. It’s known as “psistaria” or “souvlatzidiko” as locals call it. Here, you can taste the popular pita bread filled with thin slices of pork (pitogyro). In Crete, locals love to add yoghurt into pita bread instead of tzatziki.

Don’t forget to try the Cretan version which is pita bread stuffed with minced sheep meat (proveio bifteki). For extra flavor, try the pita bread called “skepasti” which is a favorite street-food choice on the island. Here, all the ingredients are covered by two pita breads cut in four large pieces.

 

restaurants in Crete: what you need to know before your visit

8. If you are fan of vegetarian foods, you’ll love Cretan cuisine

Cretan cuisine is all about seasonal vegetables, wild greens (horta), aromatic wild herbs and fruits. The island has an intense farming/agricultural activity offering fresh local products of premium quality. Crete provides all regions of Greece with all kinds of Cretan products. Did you know that the 90% of the avocado production in Greece is coming from western Crete?

You don’t even have to search for a restaurant specialized in vegetarian dishes. There are lots of food options for you everytime you visit restaurants in Crete. Cretan food relies on a few local ingredients, simple cooking preparations and distinct flavors.

Have a better insight into the variety of Cretan products that you can taste on the island and the flavorful, vegetarian-based recipes of Cretan cuisine that you can taste in restaurants.

 

restaurants in Crete: Things to know before your visit

9. Don’t stick to cities food restaurants in Crete

For more authentic Cretan tastes you need to be open-minded and dare go a little further to visit the traditional Cretan villages of the island. Mountain villages, fishing villages, villages hidden between gorges are the real food gems when it comes to authentic Cretan recipes.

Don’t confuse the great view or the decor offered by restaurants with the real good food. A lot of great restaurants in Crete are not known on social media nor are listed in popular food platforms on Internet. For more authentic Cretan tastes you need to search for the small, local food spots away from touristy places.

Don’t know where to begin? Use the digital, self-guided itineraries created by Taste the Local Crete to discover the real food gems frequented by locals, in the regions of Rethymno (western Crete) and Lassithi (eastern Crete). Plus, you’ll get recomendations on what’s worth tasting when visiting each one of the restaurants.

 

restaurants in Crete: you need to know these 10 little things before your visit

10. Get to order dishes beyond the popular Cretan foods

Of course there is a list with the most popular Cretan dishes that you can find almost in every restaurant. But don’t stick to the well-known recipes, ask the waitstaff if they offer some special dishes to order off the menu, which are cooked on a daily basis. A good idea, also, is to ask the waitstaff if the restaurant has a best-seller dish that they can recommend.

In Crete, many restaurants offer recipes based on seasonal vegetables and wild greens (horta). Don’t miss the chance to ask what’s worth tasting on each season. Especially if you visit small family taverns in Cretan villages it’s more likely that you’ll get to taste core recipes of the island cooked with fresh seasonal vegetables from the village.

 

restaurants in Crete: a few things to know if you plan to visit the island

 

If you love exploring different culinary culture, you should add Crete to your next travel plans. The island is a perfect gastronomic destination. Not to mention that if you are a cheese lover there are 14 varieties of Cretan cheese for you to taste and 11 local wine varieties to pair with cheese.

For more local tastes and food experiences on the island, follow Taste the Local Crete on social media. Keep tasting Crete and subscribe to receive our newsletters!