Monday, February 11, 2008

Greece – Smoking in Restaurants

Okay, we are now going to talk about the touchy subject of the Greek dining experience. Several things can ruin a restaurant experience for us. It just takes a few on the following list:
  • smoking (unlike Italy, smoking is allowed in restaurants in Greece as of writing)
  • disinterested or overly formal or bad service
  • the TV on full blast
  • bad food
  • ridiculously high prices
In Greece, the first two items on the list were common: smoking and overly formal service to the point of being cold, let's say 'sooty and snooty'. Once in awhile we were treated to the TV on as well. One night, we saw the hostess running around bumming cigarettes from diners. Another night in a restaurant in Nafplion some singers came in, one of which had two packs of cigarettes. By the time we got up to leave he had already sucked down one pack. 

What to do?  Here are some suggestions:

  • eat outdoors as weather permits (hard for us during our February visit)
  • eat at a café which tends to be bigger, more spread out, and typically has lots of outdoor seating with heating, but limited, and less interesting menus.
  • eat lunch on the run (like take-away souvlaki) and avoid dinner 
  • sit near the door
  • go to dinner early in the evening (e.g., the tourist schedule of eating early)
  • eat quick and leave
  • go to restaurants that only deal with tourist groups, boring but less likely to have smokers.
  • just deal with it and air your clothes out later on the balcony of your hotel
  • write a letter to the EU 
Okay, none of these suggestions sound that great, but it’s the price you pay to see the country. And to be honest, we ate wherever we thought we would get a good honest meal. Smoke be damned. Oh, and while smoky, the service in the two restaurants we tried on the island of Hydra was totally charismatic and vivacious.

Update 2021

Since this was originally written, the 2010 smoking ban went into effect into Greece, which improves matters significantly.  Also, we just got back from 12 days in Crete and we have to say we largely had positive restaurant experiences. Smoking was not a problem. Good service. Very few TVs. Good food. Low prices. Maybe the situation has changed, or we have changed, or islands are different and there is a great deal of variation in experience depending on where you go.

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