Rhodes is the island of the sun, having over 300 days of sun annually. The Mediterranean diet is in full force here, with the olive tree being cultivated since ancient times. There are citrus trees and vineyards, beautiful wildflowers everywhere, and an array of wild herbs and greens growing out of the fertile Rhodian soil. I fell in love with this Mediterranean island after visiting my sister there when she studied abroad. Rhodes is packed with tourists from April to September, which can make finding traditional foods a bit difficult. I realized this when I first walked around Rhodes town, the main city on the northernmost tip of the island. Most of the restaurants had huge signs in front with pictures of all the traditional Greek foods. There are promoters trying to sway you into their restaurants with offers and deals. These places are known for serving week-old overpriced Moussaka to tourists who didn’t know better. If any restaurant had these characteristics, I wasn’t going to eat there.
Ladiko Bay, Rhodes
Greek Hospitality with an Egyptian Twist
Luckily my sister had stayed on the island for an extended period of time and she had discovered some local amazing food to share with me. Because of her being vegan, she was always looking for places with awesome vegan options. The best by far was her favorite place in Rhodes town, George and Maria’s Art of Falafel. This extremely hospitable couple brings a not-so Greek recipe to Rhodes. They fry their bright green falafel in extra virgin olive oil! It gets really browned and crisp on the outside and has tons of fresh herbs in the filling. All of their food is delicious and I would order anything they recommended.
George lived in Egypt and learned about good falafel there. My sister and I always get the falafel pita for about 3 euros, which comes with three falafel, lettuce, tomato, onion, stewed beans, and tahini sauce. This tahini sauce is extremely addicting and you find yourself putting it on each new bite of the pita. My sister and her roommates nicknamed it “crack sauce” because it was that addicting to them. The owner George told me he has been perfecting the falafel recipe for 20 years. This is the kind of care that goes into all of George and Maria’s food. They have homemade traditional Greek dishes daily, as well as local seafood that George catches himself. During the offseason, he’s a fisherman! On the walls of the restaurant, there are pictures of him with his catches, all very impressive. I could see his pride as he showed me the pictures and offered to make me his octopus stew.
Half-day Trip on the Island
One of my favorite things to do for a small trip on the island is to go into the mountains and go wine tasting in the village of Embona. It is a small village located on the side of the largest peak in Rhodes, at an altitude of about 700 meters. The drive up here has beautiful winding roads through forests, along cliff sides, and through grape vineyards. The smooth barren peak of Attavyros looms above you. The families of this village are dedicated to wine production. There are several areas set up outside where the wineries let you try all of their own products.
Wine Tasting in Embona
You start with their homemade bread and homegrown olives. Dip the bread in their locally produced extra virgin olive oil. They have their own cheese and vegetables as well. While snacking on this you can try about 10 of their own production wines. From extremely sweet dessert wines to very dry wines you will be amazed at the variety of flavors these Rhodian wines present you. These families are very friendly and very proud of their products. They sell honey, herbs, wine, olive oil, souma (Rhodian aperitif like ouzo), olives, and many other homemade local Rhodian products. These are some of the best gifts you can get for your friends back home because they can taste traditional products of Greece that keep well without refrigeration. You should check beforehand how much wine is allowed to bring home on the plane with you.
Traditional Greek Food in Rhodes Town
If you’re looking for delicious traditional Greek food in Rhodes town with a beautiful setting and good prices, Mezes is the place. It’s right across from the main beach, and there are tables outside. At night there’s sometimes live music but the atmosphere is always nice. Lots of locals go here, as well as tourists. I recommend ordering lots of plates to share. There is an offer for 6 small plates and a 100 ml bottle of ouzo, souma, tsipouro, or raki for an extremely reasonable price. It includes 3 meat, or seafood plates, along with 3 other random meze plates based on what’s fresh. Their seafood is always fresh. For homemade specialties, I would order anything from the plates of the day. I love the soutzoukakia (sausage-shaped spiced meatballs), moussaka, and stifado. Their homemade foods taste like your Greek grandma would make.
Meze feast at Mezes
Mezes, Rhodes Town Trip Advisor
Modern Greek Cuisine on Rhodes
I will never get tired of traditional Greek food, but there’s always room for a fresh spin on things. One of my most memorable dining experiences on the island was at Ergon. This restaurant was recommended to me and my sister by her friend one morning when we ran into him on the way to the beach. The chefs here are taking spins on traditional Greek food while sourcing high-quality ingredients from all over Greece.
Orzo with Goat and Goat Cheese
On the table are placemats with a map of Greece showing where each ingredient is sourced from. They specifically design dishes to include ingredients from multiple places in Greece. One of the great things about this place is that the menu is seasonal so you can always expect something new based on what’s fresh at the time.
One dish at Ergon might have ingredients from three or four places in Greece, all working together on one plate. We went crazy for a Cretan Dakos salad with rusks from Crete, cherry tomatoes and caper leaves from Santorini, and creamy feta. The caper leaves went so well with the sweet cherry tomatoes. Probably my favorite appetizer of all was the fava puree with smoked pork and caramelized onions. Usually, fava is topped with some fresh red onion and olive oil. The caramelized onions added sweetness and the smoked pork bits made it nice and salty. The first bite is like a salty, bacony, oniony flavor explosion in the mouth. The most interesting spin on something I ate was the tzatziki with squid ink. It became a dark purple color and I didn’t stop dipping bread in it until my plate was clean.
If you’re looking for something different because you’ve been eating Greek salad, moussaka, and souvlaki for the majority of your trip, definitely try Ergon. They also sell many of their products at a store connected to the restaurant. There are locations in Athens, Thessaloniki, and a couple other Greek islands.
Rhodes is unique in that is has an old town and a new town. The old town was built by the Knights of Saint John in the 1300’s A.D. It is the largest inhabited ancient city in the world. This is one of the main tourist attractions in Rhodes and rightfully so. During the tourist season, there are cruise lines dropping off thousands of tourists for day trips and they walk right to the Old Town first thing. In the summer there are endless shops, restaurants, cafes, and a great nightlife. In the winter, however, this place is deserted. This is my favorite time to go here. There is barely anyone around and you feel like you’re exploring a giant medieval castle town by yourself. Walking a little bit off the beaten path here you’re rewarded by some of the most beautiful ancient alleyways. Below is a quick video I made exploring the old town on a sunny day in January.
View from Lindos Acropolis
Rhodes is almost too good to be true for me. After my first week on the island I realized, every night is like a Friday because every bar and club is busy no matter what day it is. I also realized it’s literally a beautiful sunny day every day. It was so nice I never had to check the weather, I just woke up and got ready to go to the beach. Going out every night and hanging on the beach all day can get really tiring and make you extremely hungry. When you go to Rhodes and get nice and sunburnt, tired, and hungry, go try these places I’ve told you about. You can almost taste the sunshine.
Thanks for reading this! Here are some of my other articles and recipes:
The Cuisine of Thessaloniki (Greece)
Authentic Greek Salad (Horiátiki Salata)
Frying French Fries in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Souzoukakia (Greek spiced meatballs)
I love it, everything looks delicious and I like that it’s more low key home made places that you talked about. Versus say the food network where its all spots that are already pretty popular
Like you said, everything is made with pride and the people really care about what theyre doing and I think that’s what makes it special.
Great article! You make it easy to find the best food in town.
Wow awesome! Food sounds amazing! Great pics and video!!