Tavernas date back to the time of Aristotle – as far back as the 4th Century! They were and remain a meeting place or a community hub in Greece. Tavernas are most lively in the evening although they’re usually open by midday. In the evening, they involve entertainment, dancing, and alcoholic beverages, such as local wine. They are like an American restaurant but they offer more than food – they offer a good time! In fact, the more a taverna resembles a restaurant, the more likely it is to be less authentic and more touristy. There are several unique attributes to a taverna including the following:
1. To start with, you will have a paper table cloth, and you will received a fork and knife in a napkin, so you set your own table.
2. At our local taverna in Pendamodi, you are served the meal of the day. That is not to say that there are some alternatives, but we don’t see a menu – the proprietor is the menu! This is not true of all tavernas, but the most local operate like this.
3. When you order something, it comes in quantities that make it communal. If it’s stuffed grape leaves, you get a plate of a dozen, which you share.
4. When you order fish, expect to get the whole thing – head, tail, and all. And, it’s always fresh within a couple of days – never frozen. (I bought two sea bass at the farmers market for 5 euros!)
5. You get free fruit at the end of the meal – whatever is fresh that day. Sometimes it’s melon, sometimes apricots, or cherries or something unknown to you!
6. An after dinner shot should be expected as well – raki, tsipouro, mastica, tentura.
7. If you’re lucky enough to go on a night of music, be prepared to dance and get free lessons!
8. The music is like nothing you’ll ever hear – it’s a bit haunting and rhythmic.
Last, but not least, expect cats – lurking, begging, and meowing.
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