The typical after-beach taverna in Greece almost always focuses on fish. You want to sit seaside, still a little salty from your swim, watching the last rays of the day’s sunshine drip into the sea. It’s certainly a beautiful image, and very typically Greek. Most of the time, a day trip to the beach does end this way, particularly for Athenians when they’re looking for an escape from the sticky heat of the city center.
Trigono, a restaurant in the town of Kalyvia, makes the case for ditching post-dip fish in favor of something else: grilled meat. Tomahawk steaks, lamb ribs, long spicy sausages, even offal cuts that you wouldn’t expect to see outside of major Greek holidays – they’ll perfectly round out a day at one of the nearby beaches, and are well-worth the drive.
Kalyvia is located in eastern Attica, slightly southeast of the center of Athens and just a short drive past the Athens International Airport – it takes maybe 45 minutes to drive there, but it feels like a world away from the city. Trigono is named for the triangular junction that used to exist when the taverna first opened in 1991.
The taverna has a large indoor space, some of which is ensconced on a sunny porch, but the best place to sit is in the square just across the street. The tables here are shaded by pines, keeping it cool and breezy even during sweltering August days, and during the weekend they fill up quickly with sunburned diners – mostly locals, but with the occasional tourist. Waiters carefully cross the street, their arms laden with plates. But even the traffic that passes by Trigono is somewhat relaxed, since many of them pull over quickly to chat with restaurant servers and staff as they stand outside. Kids dart between tables, and as more customers filter in, the sounds of greetings echo over the clank of dishes. Everything feels familiar and homey – if you eat kilos of grilled meat specialties at home, that is.
Trigono was started up by Konstantinos Karakasilis and Andreas Kollias, but it’s Mr. Karakasilis’s expertise that has made the taverna the meat destination that it is today. Before it opened, he had his own butcher shop, and now, Trigono’s reputation rests on this butchery background. “When the shop opened, it was based on the meat’s very good quality,” explains Karakasilis. “It’s the main ingredient on our menu, and since then it has become known and gained the reputation it has today.”
Karakasilis’s passion for quality ingredients means he maintains a very hands-on approach. “I go and choose the meats myself,” he says, “and they come from traders we’ve been working with for over 30 years.” The animals he selects come exclusively from the Greek islands and mainland. The paidakia (lamb ribs), for instance, which are particularly famous, come from Lesvos island, and the beef comes primarily from Thrace, to the north of Greece. These ribs, chunks of sizzling meat on the end of a slender bone, are incredibly tender and juicy, with fat that is nearly caramelized. The outside is super crispy, but somehow it still melts off the bone – and true paidakia devotees know exactly how to strip off every last particle of meat.
The menu also stars large slabs of pork, and giant tomahawk steaks that arrive at the table on wooden cutting boards. You can select how you want the steak cooked – when you ask for medium rare, it actually comes to you pink in the middle, and perfectly seared on the outside. Everything is grilled slowly over ripping hot coals and is seasoned simply, with salt and oregano tossed onto the raw cut.
And in a testament to true nose-to-tail butchery, there are some less conventional – but very Greek – cuts on the menu. Kokoretsi, or liver and lungs wrapped up in intestines, turns slowly on a spit, roasting over coals at the bottom. The outside is crisp, while the inside is exceptionally juicy, a difficult feat for this particular cut. And then there are the lamb heads, which you can either break into on your own, or the staff can do it for you. From there, you can dig in.
Of course, you can also fill up your table with salads and sides, like perfectly light fried potatoes that will mystify even the most selective fry lover with its texture, greens swimming in olive oil and lemon juice, Greek salad topped with intensely flavorful feta, and dips like tzatziki and tirokafteri, a slightly spicy cheese dip. Yes, meat is the draw, but there is something for everyone – whether you’re looking for dishes or atmosphere, or even just a relaxing breezy spot to enjoy a cold drink after a summer swim.
Since the beginning, the philosophy of good meats has driven this taverna’s success. Even today, if you walk inside, you’ll notice full animals being broken down right next to the grill. It’s simple, but it’s all you need. “The only change is that we’re getting even better,” laughs Karakasilis.
Published on August 01, 2022