A Greek restaurant is a restaurant that specializes in Greek cuisine. Several types of Greek restaurants exist. Going out to eat is "part of the local culinary culture" in modern Greece even in times of economic crisis. Greek restaurants in the United States tend to be moderately priced, and they vary in terms of types of service, cuisine and menu offerings, table settings and seating arrangements. Greek restaurants may also offer dishes from other various cuisines on their menus.
The estiatório (plural estiatória) is a type of modest restaurant in Greece. They have been described as "something of a vanishing breed". An estiatório may purvey dishes such as casseroles, meat and game stews, baked meat and fish, macaroni pie and mayirefta in the form of moussaka.
Giradiko(or giradika) restaurants purvey the popular Greek dish gyros. In Greece, gyros are typically prepared using spiced ground pork shoulder meat, while in the United States they are commonly prepared with ground lamb sliced from a vertical rotisserie spit.
Meze restaurants are known as mezedopoleío (singular) or mezedopoleía (plural), and serve appetizers known as meze or orektiko (plural mezedes/orektika) to complement beverages. Some meze restaurants simply serve whatever has been prepared that day, not offering menus.
Establishments known as ouzerí are a type of café that serves drinks such as ouzo or tsipouro, are similar to mezedopoleio and souvlatzidiko restaurants, and also provide similar foods and service. A tsipourádiko is a "local variant of an ouzerí".
Tavernas are typically medium-sized restaurants with affordable pricing that purvey a variety of Greek dishes, foods and beverages. Tavernas originated in Greece.
In many Greek restaurants in Greece, it is not considered impolite for guests to enter the kitchen to see what is cooking before ordering, although this may not occur in fine dining and hotel restaurants. After this, a waiter may be notified of guest choices. Table service is often relaxed and laid-back, and patrons may need to flag down wait staff to order and request items. Wine is commonly consumed during lunch and dinner. Ouzo is typically available in Greek restaurants.
There are many Greek restaurants in the United States, with 3,100 categorizing themselves as such, and at least one exists in every U.S. state. In the U.S., Greek restaurateurs may provide authentic Greek cuisine and customs. They may also offer dishes from other cuisines. Many Greek restaurants in the U.S. were started by immigrants from Greece, some of which began due to new health codes in the U.S. during the early 20th century that limited or restricted food carts. Per these restrictions during this time, some people opened Greek restaurants instead. Additionally during this time period, many Greek confectionery and sweetshop businesses declined due to an increase in manufactured candies and sweets. Many of these companies transformed their businesses into lunch rooms, and later, restaurants. It has been estimated that approximately 7,000 Greek restaurants existed in the U.S. by the beginning of the Great Depression.
It has been suggested that the first documented Greek restaurant in the U.S. was the Peloponnesos in Manhattan, New York City, in the Lower East Side, which may have opened "as early as 1857", although it has been stated that its opening date was "more likely in the 1880s.
In 1913, there were "several hundred Greek-owned lunchrooms and restaurants in Chicago".
In the 1930s, many Greek restaurants in the U.S. went out of business, in part due to problems that occurred during the Great Depression. During this time, competition increased due to an increase of affordably-priced lunch counters opening in various types of stores, such as drug stores and department stores. Additionally, more patrons could not afford to eat out in restaurants during this time.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of Greek restaurants increased, and by the 1970s they were a significant pillar in the U.S. restaurant landscape.
Of note is that Greek immigrants in the U.S. also opened other types of restaurants, such as restaurants serving other cuisines, diners, luncheonettes, pizzerias and coffeehouses. Some immigrant-owned Greek restaurateurs opened restaurants that specialized in other ethnic or national cuisines, such as Italian cuisine.
A tavérna or estiatório may offer a meze as an orektikó. Many restaurants offer their house pikilía, a platter with a variety of various mezedes that can be served immediately to customers looking for a quick or light meal. Krasomezédhes (literally "wine-meze") are mezedes that go well with wine; ouzomezédhes are mezedes that go with ouzo. Psomi oretiko is a bread appetizer that is common in Greek restaurants.
In Greece, main courses may be ordered directly from the kitchen, from a menu board or from menus. In coastal Greek restaurants, fish dishes may be weighed and sold by the kilogram, which occurs prior to cooking. Frozen fish is sometimes used, which may be described on menus as katepsigmenos. Seafood dishes that are staples include swordfish, octopus, squid, sardines and prawns.
A small restaurant in Delphi, Greece
Interior of a taverna in Kos, Greece
A fast casual Greek restaurant
A Greek restaurant (in the background) in Rhodes, Greece
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