Besides vathres,waterfalls, mountain and beaches, food is one of the things you'll always remember Samothraki by. With very few exceptions, there are no fancy restaurants on the island, but rather family tavernas and coffee shops. The owner is also the manager, the cook and the waiter.
The food here is simple, yet tasty, made out of local ingredients, just like your typical Greek grandma would cook it.
Often the menu is hastily scribbled on a notebook or on a blackboard. In the off-season don't even bother to look at the menu, just ask what's cooking and trust your host's recommendations. The prices are considerably smaller compared to other Greek islands.
When you take a seat at a taverna, the white paper cover with the map of the island on it will be promptly laid on the table and water will be brought. If it's in a carafe it's on the house. Don't be afraid to drink it, as the water of Samothraki is one of the cleanest in Greece. Sometimes they bring a 1.5-liter water bottle which is about 1.5 €.
The appetizers are the ones you typically find everywhere in Greece, but thanks to the natural local ingredients they are extra tasty.
If you love cheese then try the tyrosalata (cheese salad) or tyrokafteri (meaning spicy cheese). It is a cheese spread (with varying degrees of spiciness) made out of cheese (doh!) mixed with fat yogurt, finely chopped peppers, olive oil and spices. It costs 2.5 - 3 € and is amazing in combination with fresh bread.
Speaking of bread, it's fresh, delicious and impossible to say no to. The oldest bakery in Samothraki is in Chora and is 150 years old.
Other traditional cheese dishes are cheese saganaki and bougiourdi (cheese with tomatoes and other veggies baked in the oven). The cheese (feta or hard cheese) can be grilled. Feta is also served as is, with just a drop of olive oil and a sprinkle of dried oregano on top. A special mention goes to myzithra (it's similar to ricotta) and is served with honey on top.
Other typical appetizers are fish roe salad (taramosalata), eggplant salad (melitzanosalata), fried zucchini, stuffed pumpkin flowers, stuffed vine leaves with rice, fava (a yellow pea cream) and the famous tzatziki.
Unsurprisingly, the most common salad is the Greek one. You'll find it in the menus as horiatiki, which means "peasant", for about 5-6€. It consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion and one or more large feta slices on top, together with olive oil and some oregano.
Of course, don't ever forget to try the tzatziki (yogurt with chopped cucumbers and garlic)!
Katsikaki, Samothraki's culinary claim to fame
As you'd expect, on an island where the number of goats is about 20 times bigger than the human population, the star dishes will be made out of goat meat (katsikaki in Greek). Goat is cooked in various ways – on a spit, in a pan, in parchment, stuffed with rice, with spices (gemisto), with wine, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, or even with honey, quinces, or plums. A portion is about 8-9 €, and the kilo is around 25-28 € depending on the taverna. A special dish made of goat entrails is called kokoretsi.
As most goats roam freely on the island, their meat is tastier than in other places.
Also popular for its culinary tradition and the goat-based dishes is Taverna Karydies in the village of Ano Meria.
Fish and seafood
The tavernas on the shore are a great place to look for fresh fish (psari) and seafood. Most often, the owner will invite you inside to show you the catch of the day.
Try the different types of fish, grilled or fried, with lemon and olive oil sauce (ladolemono), the squid and octopus (htapodi), grilled or cooked in vinegar and served as an appetizer.
Other main dishes
If you're not into goat or seafood there are plenty of other choices. The menus of the tavernas include chicken, lamb or pork meat, grilled or cooked in the oven, meatballs, sausages, mousaka, pastitsio (a pasta dish), stuffed zucchini or eggplants, manti (homemade pasta filled with minced meat and onion).
Oven-cooked eggplants, tourlou or briam (vegetable stew in the over) and the traditional fasolada tsigaristi (pan-cooked beans) are among the vegetarian options.
The most common salad is ... you guessed it - the Greek salad (choriatiki). It costs 5-6 € and is made from tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onion and a hefty chunk of cheese topped with olive oil and oregano.
You can order a marouli along your main course. It's finely chopped green salad seasoned with olive oil and lemon. Other typical options are beetroot salad, tomato and cucumber salad, baked peppers, or rocket salad. Prices vary between 3 and 5 €.
Many taverns serve chorta - a salad made from boiled or sauteed green leaves, very similar to beet leaves.
The local fruit is called praousti. It's a prune type (prunus domestic syriaca), also known as "mirabelle prune". The fruits are round, yellow-orange in color and sweet when they are ripe. As they usually ripen in August, the Greeks called them praousti (from pro augustou). Marmalade or the traditional spoon sweet (praousti koutaliou) is made from them.
Spoon sweets can be prepared from all sorts of fruits, by boiling and then preserving them in sugar or honey syrup. They're usually eaten with a spoon or a teaspoon (hence the name), from small glass bows, accompanied by a Greek coffee and a glass of water.
Another dessert typical of Northern Greece and especially of Samothraki is called haslamas and it is a syrup cake made out of wheat flour and semolina.
There are also all kinds of crepes available (go to Trapeza or Stenaki in Chora or to Kentriko in Kamariotissa), baklava, kataifi, galaktoboureko (a milk and semolina syrup pie), chocolate cakes (try the pissa kai poupoula, which means "tar and feather" at Lefkos Pyrgos in Chora), fresh fruit, ice cream (try the goat milk ice cream at the Trapeza Coffee Shop in Chora) and the delicious Greek yogurt with marmalade.
In Kamariotissa you really need to pay a visit to Santigi. It's easily one of the best, if not the best sweetshop.
At some tavernas, the dessert is on the house, at the end of your meal.
The Greek love slowly sipping their frappe in front of the coffee shops making small talk. It's probably the most popular drink on the island (and in the whole country). The original Greek version of this drink is made with instant coffee, sugar, milk, water and ice – no whipped cream, no ice cream, no chocolate syrup. The price is between 1.5 and 3 €. If you want your frappe sweet ask for metrio. If you don't want sugar at all, ask for sketo (which means "pure"). If you want to die from diabetes in the next few minutes ask for glyko.
The Greek coffee is called ellinikos and it costs 1-2 €.
You can use the same expressions when asking for coffee (sketo, metrio, glyko) to indicate how sweet you want it. In some coffee shops, you may find a type of coffee from Alexandroupoli which is darker (skouro) and usually stronger.
If you crave an espresso, you can grab a good one at Trapeza Cafe in Chora or at To Kentriko and Santigi in Kamariotissa.
Give the local alcoholic drinks a try - tsipouro (a homemade grape brandy with or without anis), the artisanal beer Fonias Pale Ale or the wines from the Melmar Winery (if you like red wine, I recommend you taste the Syrah called Mistiko Monopati).
If you're not into alcohol ask for vissinada which is a homemade syrup and beware that the lemonade is a Fanta-like carbonated drink.
The snacks called mezedes (which is plural for meze) or mezedakia (which is the diminutive) deserve a special mention. You'll find them at cafes and bars and quite often are not on the menu. They are small plates of appetizers that change every day and go swimmingly with tsipouro and alcoholic drinks in general.
Mezedakia are great to satisfy your hunger between meals or late at night when the party lasts into the morning hours.
Some establishments only serve snacks (along with the drinks) and are called mezedopoleio. Among these are Stavroula in Lakkoma and Mezedopoleio To Xiropotamo located in the village of Xiropotamos right where the hike to the vathres of the homonymous river starts.
If you want to find out more, also check out our personal reviews of tavernas and coffee shops around Samothraki.
Kalì òrexi! = Enjoy your meal!
Yia mas! = Cheers!