Gluten-free Greek Islands: A #nimatested Travel Guide
This Gluten-free Greek Islands #nimatested guide is brought to you by Richelle (aka @tinyboss_terrorizes_gluten), Nima community member who shared her Gluten-Free wedding story on our previous Breaking Bread post.
For a full year, Shane and I planned our gluten-free honeymoon to the Greek Islands. I adore travel, but for the past 20 years, the food piece has always been elusive. I’ve been fascinated by all the crazy experiences, gorgeous vistas, languages, local people, intriguing customs and new ways of thinking… but the ability to explore the food has been out of reach. My reactions to gluten are severe, and I react to extraordinarily small traces. So, I always did my travel without much food exploration, and wondered sometimes of the special things about food and travel I was missing out on.
I think everyone with a severe allergy knows what it’s like on trips, family gatherings and holidays. While they are wonderful, the food aspect is always a little stressful and a little sad. I felt somewhat like I was standing outside of everything looking in, knowing it could mean weeks of pain and scary neurological symptoms if I stepped inside and joined in with everyone at the feast. On our honeymoon, with my Nima beside me, I wondered if I was finally going to be able to fully jump into the food aspect of Greek culture. I left Vancouver hoping I would finally get to walk inside, eat ravenously and explore Greece with a calm mind, a settled stomach and a full heart.
We arrived in Athens on the metro at 9:30 am after traveling almost 17 hours! We were lucky (or we were well-researched enough) to be staying for free on points right by the Acropolis and Syntagma Metro station. History, culture and a wide array of food choices kept us engaged the whole time we were there. Shane and I choose to experience mostly Greek food, but I found gluten free options that encompass a whole world of flavours. Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish, italian, Middle Eastern, and all of our recommendations below are all a short walk from the ancient area of Plaka and the Acropolis. All kinds of food adventures live here!
Location: Λυσικράτους 4, Αθήνα 105 58. A 3 minute walk north from the Acropoli metro station
#nimatested Dish : Greek Salad with Feta, Capers and Olives
On our first night, jet lagged and sleepy, we wandered into the Plaka. This area is the oldest neighbourhood in Athens and is filled with ancient ruins and winding cobblestone streets. Wandering its narrow alleys we found a softly-lit patio was under a trellis of grape vines, with a gentle saxophone and a scent of olives and grapes in the breeze! While it had the perfect atmosphere for our honeymoon, I had serious doubts about their ability to understand celiac and cross contamination. I showed them my Greek Celiac card and ordered a Greek Salad. I was surprised and elated when Nima came up smile.
Location: Mitropoleos 34, Athina 105 63, Greece. Right by Syntagma square and Syntagma Metro station.
#nimatested Dish: Grouper on the Grill (I subbed the stir fried veggies for a Greek Salad. The veggies in Greece are too good!)
From the beginning, Athinaikon restaurant was extremely accommodating to my email request for gluten free food. They were enthusiastic about preparing a safe meal for me and wrote that their potatoes have their own fryer and oil, that they have repeat celiac customers, and that they would be very thorough about cleaning any prep areas. The grouper was meaty and delicious and the vegetables were crisp and fresh. The coolest thing though, was when I stood up, I realized there was a clear panel in the floor. The ancient, 5000 year old city ruins were sitting below our feet! I peered down through the window and wondered about the ancient people that used to wander the streets below. What an incredible way to finish our meal.
New Taste Restaurant
Location: 105 57, Filellinon 16, Athina 105 57, Greece. A 3 minute walk South West from Syntagma Metro station.
#nimatested Dish: Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
We stayed at New Hotel and during a freak thunderstorm, we wandered upstairs to New Taste for some prosecco and food. The service was thoughtful and they understood cross contamination well. Plus, who wouldn’t love the rose-gold and natural touches of the table settings, accented with dark wood pieces and succulents? After the storm subsided, we wandered out top the patio, which features an amazing view of the Acropolis. If there wasn’t so much to explore in Athens I would have been sitting out there gazing at the vast city and Acropolis in the distance all day long.
Blue Fish Athens
Location: 3 minute walk east from the Monastiraki metro station or a 10 minute walk west from Syntagma Metro station.
#nimatested Dish: Sea bream infused with a basil olive oil on cardamom carrot puree and avocado cream.
This was one of my favorite meals of the entire trip. The patio featured strung lights along the trees of the narrow cobblestone sidewalk and it was lit up just as much by the light as it was by the history that surrounded us. The ruins and soft yellow glow of Hadrian’s library was right next to the restaurant! As for the service and meal, here we enjoyed the sassiest service of our trip. Our server was extremely witty and funny. The sea bream had a perfectly crispy skin and the sweetness of the carrot cardamom puree along with the creaminess of the avocado puree paired beautifully with the fish. I loved the addition of the infused basil oil on top!
Athens honorable mention : Avocado in Plaka has a very large array of gluten free dishes and came highly recommended by many celiacs. I ended up stopping here a few times but because of timing, only had smoothies or juices so I did not use my Nima here. I heard so many great things though, and enjoyed gluten-free vibe of the place so much, that it seems a shame not to give them a mention here. Location: Nikis 30, Syntagma, 105 57 Athens, Greece. About a 4 minute walk West of Syntagma metro station.
Location: Epar.Od. Mandrakiou-Molou, Idra 180 40, Greece. About a 15 minute walk West along the water from the port, near Avlaki Beach.
#nimatested Dish: Appetizer —“Dolmadakia”, vine leaves stuffed with rice & herbs, marinated white anchovies, smoked yoghurt, lemon.
Hydra is known as a dreamy car-free island filled with gorgeous views and donkeys. After a day filled with whitewashed buildings, cliffs, historic canons swimming in the Aegean sea and donkey selfies , we wandered up the mountain in search of a few restaurants we had emailed about gluten free meals.
We passed one called Omilos and I really wanted to eat there because of the gorgeous view by the water. However, Shane convinced me to keep trudging up the hill when he pointed out a baby-blue sign that read “Technie, just past the second windmill.” Shane wanted to us to keep climbing.
Am I ever glad we did! What followed was one of the most incredible dining experiences of our lives. The cool breeze after a hot day, attentive service, and three Nima tested, Nima approved dishes! Tranquil acoustic remakes of songs we recognized from our childhoods (late 80’s ) only added to the nostalgic paradise vibe. For the food, everything tasted unique and delicious, and the pictures speak for themselves below.
#nimatested Dish: Main course — grilled yellowfin tuna niçoise, purple potato, sautéed green beans, olives, cured egg yolk, tomato dressing.
#nimatested Dish: Dessert — sparkling wine and homemade ice cream. I choose pistachio and chocolate!
Some other Hydra recommendations: Sunset Hydra from the Four Seasons (Location: Hydra 180 40, Greece) and Omilos ( Location: Epar.Od. Mandrakiou-Molou, Idra) also replied thoughtfully to my emails and were confident they could accommodate celiacs and prevent any cross contamination.
Santorini is a gorgeous island about a 45 minute flight away from Athens. The views from the caldera will take your breath away! Tourism is big here, and every restaurant I contacted was eager to help and prepare celiac safe meals.
Room Service/breakfast Altana Hotels and Suites
Location: Imerovigli, Santorini. High on the caldera overlooking the ocean.
#nimatested Dish: Assorted fruit platter and Greek yogurt drizzled with honey.
While not technically a restaurant, I want to include Altana because we enjoyed the most incredible service and stay here. The owners are twin brothers Christos and Marios. They were the ones who recommended to us every restaurant we found in Santorini. Ask Christos about the grumpy Captain who owned the property before his parents or the beautiful half Egyptian sisters who used to live in the rooms. All history stories that live in this place added so much richness to our stay here. The breathtaking views didn’t hurt either.
After a long day of traveling, hungry and tired, we were looking for food. I ordered fruit and Greek yogurt drizzled with honey from room service. They also created a gluten free meat and cracker plate. My husband ordered it but Altana mistakenly believed the dish was for me, so they went through the whole procedure of cleaning the prep area and carefully checking ingredients. Nima smiled for the platter! Through our hotel, we also enjoyed gorgeous gluten free breakfasts on our patio. All our breakfasts got a smile as well.
Location: 84700 Gali Square, Imerovigli 847 00, Greece.
#nimatested Dish: Baked lamb shank with crispy roasted potatoes.
Rare is a meat-based restaurant that came highly recommended by Marios, one of the twin brothers that own Altana. Our server was very hospitable and really wanted to make sure the food was safe for me. We ate outdoors very late in the evening after a long day of touring so please excuse the darkness of my photo. My lamb was tender and the potatoes were crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle. Nima was all smiles! The meat was amazing paired with a large glass of red wine. It’s very odd for me to choose a meal without any vegetables, as I love them, but this was an incredible dinner after a long day!
Location: Vlichada Marina, Vlichada 847 00, Greece. Just West of the gorgeous Vlichada beach.
#nimatested Dish: Whole Sea Bass on the grill.
On our final day in Santorini, we rented an ATV to explore the south of the island. After visiting Red Beach, Akrotiri Lighthouse (the southernmost tip of the island) and riding through the windy, winding roads, we felt very hungry! This place was recommended as the best seafood restaurant on the island. It’s right by the water and the patio is between the restaurant and a busy road – so watch out as you’re crossing to go inside to pick your fish! After looking at all the glistening fishies, we choose a gorgeous sea bass. They grilled it beautifully, the skin crisp and caramelized. It made it really hard to wait while our server sliced and deboned it right on our table. We enjoyed this with a light white from Santorini. Interesting note: Almost all Santorini wines are white, because they produce mostly white grapes because of their climate!
Milos is a small island in the Aegean sea, known for their locally produced food and especially their seafood. Because many of the food producers are small farmers and fishermen on the island, it is easy to enquire about the ingredients in a dish and how it was made. While Milos is known for its beaches and its waters that are various unbelievable shades of blue, one of the things I enjoyed most were the tiny, traditional fishing villages found all over the island. These colorful little homes had doors that opened right into the sea and salty waves that crashed right onto their front steps! The other charming thing about Milos was all the kittens. They sure do know how to charm their tourists for a snuggle and leftovers!
Location: Pollonia Milos, Cyclades 848 00, Greece. Right on Pollonia Beach!
#nimatested Dish: “Almost Raw” Prawns stuffed with butter, garlic and herbs.
This was a lovely windy little patio right on the beach. We enjoyed gorgeous views of the water and visits from lots of fluffy kittens! The appetizer we ordered, the almost raw prawns stuffed with garlic and herbs was one of the most delicious things I ate on my trip. They were bright with lemon juice and extremely fresh tasting! We both adored this dish. Unfortunately, my main (Octopus stew) turned up with gluten found. The staff seemed genuinely puzzled and made me a cheese plate instead, which got a smile. Overall I’d come here again, but I would definitely bring my Nima!
Location: Μήλος 848 00. Right by Mandrakia Beach, a quaint little fishing village on the North West side of Milos
#nimatested Dish: Red Pepper Stuffed with Milos cheese and herbs. And locally- Caught Octopus in Vinegar and Smoked Eel on Pureed Fava.
This is an EXTREMELY popular seafood restaurant. With views of crashing waves and waters all unbelievable shades of blues and greens, it’s easy to understand why it’s so busy! Besides for the gorgeous seaside atmosphere, the food is fresh and delicious. Medousa prides themselves on their connections to small Milos farmers and dedication to using locally produced foods.
On a little walk past the restaurant, down the stone steps where the salty waves crashed right onto the path, I found the colourful fishing homes of Mandrakia. The octopus for the restaurant were drying right below where I was walking! The seafood is very fresh and very local. We enjoyed a red pepper stuffed with herbs and cheese, fresh octopus in vinegar and smoked eel on fava and a bottle of white produced in Milos. Nima smiled for all three dishes while blue waves crashed against the wall and kittens snuggled us for our scraps.
#nimatested Dish: Fresh Juice
On our way home, in a little corner of the airport, I had little choice for food. I finally ordered two fresh juices from a little deli. I noticed how busy they were and felt a little worried. I pulled out my Nima and was disappointed when it turned up gluten found! Luckily my second juice was safe. I did occasionally test other juices in Greece, and they were always smile. However, it is something to watch out for when it’s a fresh squeezed juice in a place with lots of bread that is very busy!
It’s interesting what travel can do to you. Sometimes it’s a fun trip, sometimes it’s a disaster, and sometimes the experience pushes you into slightly different universe than when you left home. Maybe there is a neat custom you bring into your life. Maybe a foreign way of thinking helps you make new choices. Maybe things fall apart and come back together so magically you now have a greater trust in the whole universe. Home is a little warmer, and at night, the stars seem to hang a little lower, closer your heart. This was one of those trips that changed me. On our honeymoon, with my Nima beside me, for the first time I discovered a culture not only through its history, its landscape and its people, but I could also discover a culture through its FOOD. The thoughtful gestures, discussions and caring attitude from the people there only made my first experience exploring the cuisine while traveling richer. I seem to trust joining people in meals more. Now home, my world is different, days filled with more calm and with more nights at the table, being nourished not just with food, but with more friends, more conversation and more laughter.
The Nima App
Note: As with all our guides, always use precaution when dining out. The ingredients or staff can be different day by day and a Nima test does not guarantee the whole plate. Bring your Nima along with extra capsules and always let Nima take the first bite!