It’s a quiet Tuesday lunchtime when we pass through Eleftheroton Square in Chalandri, one of Athens’s northern suburbs. Anyone living in the surrounding areas knows that this boisterous neighborhood is the best place to shop and go out, whether for a bite to eat or a drink. From small, quiet bars to gourmet restaurants, from cafés to wine bars, Chalandri has something for everyone.
As expected, the square is dotted with places to sit and enjoy a coffee or have a meal while watching the world go by. Most of them are large, expensive-looking, and completely empty, apart from Ouzeri O Mitsos, a simple, teeny-tiny place squeezed amongst them, which is slowly filling up with customers. (There may be something for everyone, but there’s no guarantee that they’re all of the same quality.)
One of the oldest establishments in Chalandri, this restaurant goes by the nickname of its owner Dimitris, who has been cooking in the kitchen for the last 25 years. Since opening its doors on the square in the 1970s, Mitsos has insisted on serving only fish-based meze, for the simple reason that it is the best accompaniment to ouzo.
The interior space is small and recently renovated, but one can still marvel at the beautiful black-and-white photographs portraying happy moments and famous clients, or the intricate sign drawn by the well-known Greek cartoon artist Bost and given to the owner as a present.
Mitsos serves only fish-based meze because it is the best accompaniment to ouzo.
The menu is modest, but typical of such eateries. There is a selection of fried and cured fish, salads, dips and some cooked dishes, all prepared daily. Mitsos has remained so successful over the decades for a number of reasons, not least their use of only fresh fish and the way it is fried without a hint of oiliness.
Another one is the swift and personal service, which allows for a good table turnover. Clients come from all walks of life: local businessmen, ladies on a break from shopping, young people who enjoy the vintage charm. Everyone is welcome and treated with the same warm efficiency.
When it was time to order we couldn’t resist the fried koutsomoura (a type of red mullet) that definitely lived up to its reputation: It was fresh, juicy and not at all oily. The boiled stamnagathi (a wild green that has a slight bitter aftertaste) was excellent, perfectly cooked and doused with good quality olive oil. Equally tasty were the boiled zucchini and the cured, smoked mackerel. The latter, which is served with chopped onions and parsley, is a great meze for ouzo. Unfortunately, we were not brave enough to try the fiery cuttlefish stew, but have heard many good things about it.
If you couldn’t guess by its name, ouzo is the drink of choice here, but there is also a good selection of tsipouro, the grappa-style Greek spirit, as well as beer and house wine. Prices really depend on how much one drinks, but shouldn’t exceed €20 per person.
After we’re stuffed with fish and ouzo, we take a stroll around Chalandri – despite being one of the largest municipalities in Attica, it still feels like a small town, at least in its center, with plenty of pedestrianized streets and lush greenery.
Although when it’s time to go back to the city, we are relieved to have taken public transport out here, as traffic can get quite heavy. We suggest you do the same, or park a bit further out if you come by car.
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