It’s hard to understate how deeply you feel the weight of history in Greece. While other destinations – Iraq, Egypt, and Mexico spring to mind – lay claim to earlier civilizations, the Western world is undoubtedly still affected by the earliest culture that developed in the Greek empire. You can see it all around you when exploring Greece, and taste it in the dishes and flavors on the plate when eating there.
In few other places does history bear so directly with what’s on the plate.Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain visited Greece twice: in episode 4, season 4 of No Reservations to the Ionian islands and again as the season premiere of season 8 of Parts Unknown, visiting the island of Naxos in the Cyclades. These are his only on-screen visits, though it’s possible – and likely – that he visited other parts of Greece during his travels.
Tony’s visits to Greece are perhaps not what you’re expecting: he films no episodes in Athens, and almost exclusively fails to mention the places he eats, and has a high number of what I call “local dining experiences” rather than restaurant meals. This makes it tricky to identify and recommend specific places, though I’ve done my best to create the most comprehensive list possible of places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Greece.
While it might not be as helpful as other country guides shared here, I hope you’ll explore Greece as Tony did, seeing what it had to offer whether than bringing your own ideas. Here are the places he visited and what he ate.
No Reservations (2007)
As mentioned, Anthony Bourdain begins his first journey in Greece in the Ionian islands. These islands are located off the western coast of the Grecian mainland, and are famous as the setting for Homer’s Odyssey. As one might expect, Tony takes his own odyssey, exploring a few islands by boat and sampling the local food.
First up, Bourdain meets food writer Byron Ayanoglu to explore the Heraklion Central Market on the island of Crete; this is the setting for the majority of the episode. They tuck into a meal at a local (unnamed) taverna, enjoying fried Maridaki (?) fish, tripe soup, and wild greens followed by lamb sweetbreads, chickpeas sauteed with lemon and olive oil, and stewed wild goat.
Next, he heads out of Heraklion to learn about how raki, Greece’s “legal moonshine” is made. While there, he drinks too much – by his own admission – paired with lamb and other dishes.
Speaking of lamb, Tony next visits Anogeia, inland and in the central part of Crete. He there attends a lamb slaughter, followed by a lamb roast.
Next, he has another local meal, enjoying fresh wild greens, local snails in sauce, more greens with stewed onions and tomatoes, and staka – butter fat of goat milk and flour – on bread.
Finally, Bourdain heads to Chania, the second largest city after Heraklion. After sampling fresh sea urchin with lemon served dockside, he sits down for a meal at Neoria Seaside Taverna. This is one of his most extensive meals, including uni on fresh bread with oil, grilled octopus, fried cuttlefish, sheep milk cheese on tomato puree and barley rice, shrimp stewed with feta, other grilled fish, fresh squid with lemon, grape leaves stuffed with rice, dill and lemon, and wild greens. Oh, and lots of raki – prompting another epic hangover. (Having been to Greece, I can attest to how easy it is to drink too much while having a great meal.
To cure that before setting sail, Byron and Tony visit Bougatsa Chania, a bakery and cafe famous for its bougatsa (as the name suggests). Bourdain watches how this salty greek-style ricotta pie in phyllo dough is made and enjoys it with a Freddo espresso. (As an aside, I wrote a story for Roads & Kingdoms about my love for Freddo espresso in Greece; it’s one of my favorite freelance stories, and you can read it here.)
Next, Tony and Byron set sail for the island of Zakynthos. This island is much smaller and less touristic even than Crete.
There, Bourdain sets out on a quail hunt, followed by a full meal at Alitzarini Restaurant; as far as I can tell, this restaurant is no longer open. There, he enjoys lamb spleen stuffed with local cheese and spiced with cinnamon and clove; lamb sweetbreads in tomato sauce; braised rabbit stew with onions, spices, and wine; and lemon-basted, grilled, and roasted quail (though not the one he shot, which was un-usable for food!).
The episode ends with a beach picnic on Shipwreck Beach, which can only be accessed by charter boat – and bringing your own supplies. Here, Bourdain enjoys grilled octopus and fisherman’s stew with tomato and onion and shares how this trip changed his opinion about Greece and Greek food.
Parts Unknown (2015)
For his second visit, Anthony Bourdain heads to an entirely different part of Greece, the Cyclades islands south of the mainland. These islands are popular tourist destinations with names you’ll recognize, Mykonos and Santorini chief among them. Instead, Tony settles on Naxos for the entire episode, slowing down to reflect on how Greece is struggling with financial collapse (at the time) and the food he finds there.
In classic Bourdain fashion, Naxos is where Zeus lived and Dionysus raved – though you’ll now find a much slower pace than the Olympians perhaps enjoyed here. By this point is his career, Tony is acutely aware of the effect of recommending specific places to eat and doesn’t mention any place by name – it took serious internet sleuthing to find a few of the spots he ate.
First, on his visit to the mountain town of Apeiranthos, he enjoys an evening meal at Taverna Platanos; there he enjoys lamb, pork (rosto, “Naxos-style pork”), and potatoes. He also enjoys a home-cooked meal at Naxian Collection, featuring homemade stuffed peppers, Axian potatoes, and slow-cooked rooster featuring ingredients from the organic farm on the property. (I’m fairly certain this is also the company that Bourdain rented his villa, if you want to stay at the same place Tony did on Naxos.)
Anthony Bourdain also enjoys several local meals – naturally. For some, he is joined by Lambros Tryfillis, a bar owner and his guide; the best meal they share is salatouri (skate), mashed fava, grilled rofos (grouper) with lemon on a fishing boat with Fearless George, a local fisherman. He also meets up for several meals with The Stray Bitches, a local politically-oriented women’s band; the episode ends with their beach barbecue and bonfire, intercut with scenes of Tony preparing and sharing a meal with his crew.
As you can see, this was an unconventional recap – because Bourdain took unconventional trips to Greece. He didn’t spend time in the major cities or on the popular islands, and protected the places he ate from the risk of being changed by his visits to them. This means you’ll have to plan your own unconventional trip if you want to follow in the footsteps and forkfuls of Anthony Bourdain in Greece.
Have any questions, comments, or corrections for this guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Greece? Please let me know in the comments section below.