Volos is an destination on mainland Greece that is absolutely worth visiting. With the majestic sea as its base combined with the rugged backdrop of Mount Pelion, Volos is a picturesque city that is fast becoming a popular destination for gastronomy.
Volos is a coastal port city 200 miles north of Athens. I had the opportunity to spend a week in the area and found the town to be quaint and charming with its neoclassical architecture. A relatively new city, Volos is known for its mezedes(small plates) and tsipouro culture. It is the ideal destination for food lovers with its many restaurants. The dining establishments in Volos serving tsipouro and mezedes are locally known as tsipouradika.
Drinking in Greece is a form of art. It is about drinking for socializing, connecting and forming bonds and friendships. There is no other place in Greece to experience the art of eating and drinking quite like Volos. Whether you are in the city or on hilltops of Mount Pelion, eating and drinking are just a part of Greek life that is true, harmonious and authentic.
There is nothing more authentic in Volos than Tsipouro. Tsipouro is a drink that is made nowhere else in the world, it is only produced in Greece. Tsipouro is a distilled spirit that is approximately 40-45% in alcohol. What makes it especially interesting for me as a wine lover is that it is a spirit produced from the must of grapes from the press.
Volos’ claim to fame are its many tsipouradika, that are the heart and soul of the city. In Volos, experiencing tsipouro and mezedes is a gastronomic experience. Mezedes are small plates that savory, salty, spicy and flavorful and are paired with small shot size bottles of tsipouro. There are hundreds of tsipouradika that line the city, but don’t paint them all with a broad brush, some tsipouradika are traditional and rustic while others are more modern and hip.
Andreas Diakodimitris (chef/owner of MeZen) explains the art of eating and drinking mezedes and tsipouro. The mezedes start out strong with flavors that are intense and bold and are paired with small bottles of tsipouro. Throughout the meal, the flavors get milder and end with a big portion of meat or fish, so as to avoid a hangover after all the tsipouro that is consumed.
I had the opportunity to visit Volos and experience its food and culture to the fullest. Below are two tsipouradika that are must when visiting Volos. MeZen and 25 Ari are two very different establishments giving you two distinct, yet authentic experiences.
This charming tavern overlooks the water, and is known for its casual and local vibe. It has a clean, breezy, nautical atmosphere. A wall of tsipouro lines the bar, allowing customers to choose their favorites. 25 Ari is a place that is bustling with locals, so you know it is good. The seafood is fantastic, fresh and beautifully presented. The sardines, whole grilled fish, octopus salad, and tuna steaks were exceptional.
MeZen is a brilliant play on words combining zen and mezedes. The philosophy at MeZen is to be relaxed and joyful while enjoying the art of tsipouro and meze. MeZen is a place of sheer creativity and innovation. They offer many varieties of Tsipouro in small bottles paired with traditional mezedes that are truly gourmet and offer a modern twist. The tsipouro is free flowing throughout the evening to a point where you begin to loose count. When the food is this delish, who is counting? Some favorites that are must haves are the smoked red peppers, spicy feta cheese, and potato salad topped with fried anchovy bones. Be sure to ask for the cod with onions, tomatoes and capers as the grand finale.
A trip to Volos would not be complete without a trip to Mount Pelion. From Volos, take the winding road up the mountain and follow the paths of the centaurs. Mount Pelion is most famous for being the mythical hometown to Chiron the Centaur and the region is noted in Greek mythology as the summer home of the 12 gods of Mt Olympus.
A visit to Karaiskos Farm in the small village of Portaria is a must. Here on Mount Pelion, the organic farm of Chef Eleni Kariaskou is an gastronomic experience that should not be missed. Chef Eleni Kariaskou conducts cooking classes in the most charming outdoor kitchen. Start off by taking a tour of the herb garden, the vineyards, and fields of chickens and pigs. Then take part in a cooking class where you will make fresh homemade spinach pie, slow cooked lamb, freshly made bread and finally ending with the most scrumptious apple pie. While cooking I indulged in mezedes of fresh olives, octopus, and tatzki paired with tsipouro and local wines. A visit to Karaiskos Farm will be the most gratifying experience in the art of cooking. It will be an culinary escapade that you will remember for a lifetime.