Thessaloniki Street Food You Have to Try
You name it, we've tasted it. Here's a rundown of our favorite Thessaloniki street food, from breakfast to late night munchies!
What makes Thessaloniki Greece's foodie capital, you ask?
Is it the culinary history? The city has been a crossroad of civilizations for thousands of years no doubt.
Is it the high end restaurants? Well, Thessaloniki has its fair share.
Or is it the street food? What the city eats? What happens when you're a student or a traveler on a budget? What happens when you get hungry at 3am *heartbeat intensifies*?
In Thessaloniki, you get to taste some really good street food, that's what happens.
Bougatsa - Queen of the North
Although some argue that the original bougatsa started at the city of Serres, it has been so interwoven with Thessaloniki, that there are so many (bad!) jokes about it already.
Oh, you want to hear some? Well, I guess they're so bad they're funny?
- How do you call a birthday cake in Thessaloniki? Bougatsa with candles.
- How to you call the White Tower in Thessaloniki? Bougatsa with bricks.
- How do you call Thermaikos Gulf in Thessaloniki? Bougatsa with fish.
Well, you get the gist. We do love our bougatsa - and who can blame us, really?
The standard fillings are two: either with sweet cream (with powdered sugar on top) or with cheese. However, other sweet and savory versions also exist, for example with chocolate, spinach, or minced meet. In the morning, cream is the most popular and it goes hand-in-hand with chocolate milk. There are more jokes following this combination, but let’s just leave it at that.
Very few places make hand-stretched phyllo anymore, but Bantis does and it’s worth the trip a few blocks north of the center if you want to start your day just right with the best street food of Thessaloniki.
Of course, the fresher the better – bougatsa places open for people who start their working days early. Starting at 6 am, bougatsa is served chopped into bite sized pieces, crisp and hot from the oven.
Koulouri - The All-Time Favorite Snack
It doesn’t look like much, but this bread ring coated with sesame seeds is satisfying and packed with flavor. Again, there are two main “camps” here: the one who prefers it thin and crisp, and the one who likes it chubby and chewy - both are 50 cents, from street vendors, circulating during shopping hours.
It’s also very common to find them filled with raisins, or multigrain, covered in mixed seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, brown flaxseed etc.
Filled koulouri are a new fashion, resembling the main bagel idea: you can find many options filled with cream cheese, tahini and more for a fuller type of breakfast.
Pies - One for Every Taste
Greek pies, known as pites in Greek, are perhaps the ultimate street food to kickstart your day throughout Greece, with many regional variations, both sweet and savory, sold in every bakery. You can get great pie anywhere in Greece, but especially in Thessaloniki, this particular street food comes directly from the people of Asia Minor who settled here in the 1920s, and is known for its delicate yet tasty dough.
Chicken pies are extremely popular at the moment, but a “spanakopita” or spinach pie, enriched with crumbled feta, is a classic choice. Look for pies with a golden surface, crisp and flavorful - we particularly like Aristotéleion, on Vasileos Irakleiou street, between Aristotelous Square and Komninon Street.
But pies can be found everywhere – if it looks good, in a rustic kind of way, then it will taste good. Skip the ones that look factory-made (perfect individual triangles or half moons). If in doubt, go for the busier places with lots of Greeks – we’re here for a reason!
Gyros - One to Rule Them All
Thessaloniki and Athens are in constant debate over many things, but the oldest one has to be about “souvlaki” and “kalamaki”: meat shaved from a vertical rotating spit and served in a pita is called “gyro” in Thessaloniki (gyro means “to turn”). The same thing in Athens is called by the more generic term “souvlaki” (a “souvla” is a skewer). In Thessaloniki, a “souvlaki” is chunks of meat grilled and served on a wooden skewer. The same thing is called a “kalamaki” (“little stick”) in Athens. In Thessaloniki, a “kalamaki” is only a drinking straw.
One cannot possibly begin to understand the years of feud this disagreement has brought upon us, but it is what it is!
There is another difference between Thessaloniki and Athens, and it’s all about the size of portions. One late night “Gyradiko” (gyros place) in Thessaloniki offers an “Athenian” – the cheapest item on the menu. “What’s an Athenian?” we ask the guy behind the counter. “It’s like a normal gyro but, you know, small.” Nothing against the delicious street foods of Athens – Thessaloniki’s gyro is simply very, very large; the pita cannot close itself around the meat. It is a mess, and you will love it.
For about 3 euros you could be getting a second one, too, but we highly doubt it - it’s just not possible.
It comes in chicken, and pork versions. Classic additions include yoghurt-based tzatziki, onions, tomato, mustard and fries – but you can get them anyway you like. You can find particularly good gyro out in more residential neighborhoods.
Crepes - For Your Late Night Munchies
In Thessaloniki you will find many places that specialize in crepes, or offer their savory counterpart, toasts, as well.
A crepe, however, can be both sweet and savory: it sounds weird, but the slightly sweet wrapper makes a fine counterpoint to savory fillings.
As with the Thessaloniki gyro, the Thessaloniki crepe also comes in large - things will get messy, so maybe sit somewhere to fully enjoy it. The dessert fillings – nutella, bananas, crushed cookies etc will overflow, but it feels so good after a night out.
Crepe and toast spots are found all over the city, with a great concentration on Dimitriou Gounari above Tsimiski, a lively quarter near the university, crowded with many other snack options and busy day and night.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but only because it’s true: Thessaloniki is a marvellous city, and its street food definitely lives up to its name. Savor every bite!
And here's what else you can do in Thessaloniki, besides eating.