The oft-overlooked Greek second-city of Thessaloniki was the highlight of our recent trip to Greece. It’s an ideal size for a city-break or long weekend on foot and offers something different from Athens and the islands. Shaped by its proximity to the Balkan states and historical significance in both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires; this industrial port town seemed more ambiguously European than Greek at times.
During our time in Thessaloniki we dined at two entirely vegetarian restaurants, the recently opened vegetarian rOOTS and the popular vegan falafel bar Falafel House. Along with these two restaurants, we found some nice surprises at the local markets and grocery stores.
One of the highlights from our time in Thessaloniki were the frappés from rOOTS. The frappé is an iced coffee drink invented in Greece that has become symbolic of the culture. Consumed at the slowest, most intentional and leisurely pace; it is quick and simple to prepare but immensely satisfying and energizing. Instant coffee (and it’s essential that it is instant coffee) is frothed with milk (soya in our case), a bit of water and the requested amount of sugar and poured over ice to form a rich, foamy, frothy and almost milkshake-like iced coffee drink. Men and women, young and old, all sit around casually drinking their frappés without any sense of urgency. The melting ice continues to dilute the drink and it’s not uncommon for someone to sit and drink a frappé for over an hour.
rOOTS is a vegetarian bar and restaurant situated on a pedestrian street just off the central market. The food consists of Greek and Continental starters, salads and mains. The menu does not include labels for which dishes are vegan, but after we spoke with the staff we learned that all but two dishes can be prepared vegan. Only two starters, the Perek and Zucchini Rolls, cannot be prepared vegan. The food is nice, the drink options ample and the service distinctly Greek. The outdoor seating is especially nice for people watching over a delicious and frothy vegan frappé.
rOOTS – Vegetarian and Vegan Place
address: ΜΠΑΛΑΝΟΥ 4-6, 54623 Thessaloníki, Greece
contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Falafel House is a small, entirely vegan, falafel bar that primarily serves takeaway falafel wraps and plates. It’s located on a busy street near Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and has just one outdoor table. Falafel House offers decent, affordable meals for someone on the go. Falafel wraps are available in 3 sizes, with your choice of two different salads and sauces. We appreciate that the restaurant is entirely vegan but the food wasn’t the most exciting. It was, however, quite filling. The menu is only in Greek and the staff speak limited English.
Falafel House Thessaloniki
address: Αλεξ. Σβώλου 54, 54634 Thessaloníki, Greece
contact: +30 231 023 8091
To Pantopolio tis Thessalonikis
To Pantopolio tis Thessalonikis is a compact, old grocery store and deli that’s been around since 1924. This seemingly small shop has a deceptively large selection of unique local and imported products. Take your time and look around and you might just be surprised with what you find. Along with some random vegan products we discovered scouring the shelves, they also offer some more familiar and recognizable vegan items like Violife vegan cheese (known and Viofree in Greece) and Fry’s vegan meat alternatives. Downstairs there’s an extensive Asian food section that even includes frozen items like imported dumplings. Next door they’ve opened a smaller organic shop, Bio by To Pantopolio tis Thessalonikis. This shop has a similarly surprising selection of products that may be difficult to find elsewhere in central Thessaloniki, along with organic produce.
Το Παντoπωλείο της Θεσσαλονίκης – Food Grocery
address: Κομνηνων 12, 54624 Thessaloníki, Greece
contact: +30 231 024 4684; firstname.lastname@example.org
Like most cities in Europe, shopping in outdoor markets offers some the best produce and values. These figs were sublime and only €3/box.
Have you been to Thessaloniki and tried any of the restaurants we’ve mentioned?