Some of the most charming old restaurants in Athens are in the Plaka -- as are some of the worst tourist traps. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you head off for a meal in the Plaka.
Some restaurants station waiters outside who pursue you with an unrelenting sales pitch. The hard sell is almost always a giveaway that the place caters to tourists. (That said, remember that announcements of what's for sale are not invariably ploys reserved for tourists. If you visit the Central Market, you'll see and hear stall owners calling out the attractions of their meat, fish, and produce to passersby -- even waving particularly tempting fish and fowl in front of potential customers.)
In general, it's a good idea to avoid places with floor shows; many charge outrageous amounts (and levy surcharges not always stated on menus) for drinks and food. If you get burned, stand your ground, phone the tourist police (tel. 171), and pay nothing before they arrive. Often the mere threat of calling the tourist police has the effect of causing a bill to be lowered.
Quick Bites in Syntagma
In general, Syntagma Square is not known for good food, but the area has a number of places to get a snack. Apollonion Bakery, 10 Nikis, and Elleniki Gonia, 10 Karayioryi Servias, make sandwiches to order and sell croissants, both stuffed and plain. Ariston is a small chain of zaharoplastia (confectioners) with a location at 10 Voulis (just off Syntagma Sq.); it sells snacks as well as pastries and delicious cheese pies. For some of the best chocolate drinks in the city, stop by Chocolate 56, 56 Ermou St.
For the quintessentially Greek loukoumades (round doughnut hole-like pastries that are deep-fried, then drenched with honey and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon), try Doris, 30 Praxitelous, a continuation of Lekka, a few blocks from Syntagma Square. If you're still hungry, Doris serves hearty stews and pasta dishes for low prices Monday through Saturday until 3:30pm. If you're nearer Omonia Square when you feel the need for loukoumades or a soothing dish of rice pudding, try Aigaion, 46 Panepistimiou.
Everest is another local chain worth trying; there's one a block north of Kolonaki Square at Tsakalof and Iraklitou. Also in Kolonaki Square, Kotopoula Valsamakis serves succulent grilled chicken to take out or eat in. In the Plaka, K. Kotsolis Pastry Shop, 112 Adrianou, offers excellent coffee and sweets; it's an oasis of old-fashioned charm in the midst of souvenir shops. Oraia Ellada (Beautiful Greece), a cafe at the Center of Hellenic Tradition, opens onto both 36 Pandrossou and 59 Mitropoleos near the flea market and has a spectacular view of the Acropolis. You can revive yourself here with a coffee and pastries. For the best espresso, cappuccino, Italian pastries, and brioche sandwiches in town, venture to Alfiere Café in Kolonaki, right behind the Italian Embassy at 5 Sekeri.
For delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes, head to Avocado at 30 Nikis.
Even though there are several cafes where you may enjoy a drink and/or a light snack by the surf, few are more scenic than Moorings, Marina Vouliagmenis (tel. 210/967-0659; www.moorings.gr). On the Vouliagmeni marina, Moorings has a delicious menu, but it's also the ideal location to enjoy a drink as you take in the surroundings. It's off the beaten track, and only in-the-know locals hang out here. Take a seat on the deck overlooking the marina or the sea and enjoy. (Tram to Glyfada Square/Palio Dimarhio, and from there a 5-min. taxi ride to Vouliagmeni marina).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.