The first thing you need to know about breakfast in Crete is with few exceptions, your hotel breakfast doesn’t count. But let’s be realistic: you’re cheap and lazy and you are the kind of traveler who despite being hung over is still going to get up early to make sure you can hit the included breakfast buffet before it closes up shop. Well guess what?
I don’t want to see you before 10AM. I probably don’t want to see you after 10AM, either. And we at Tripquake are no fans of hotel breakfast buffets, no matter where they are. Because they are cop-outs, nothing but stacks of boring white plates, porcelain messengers of a long and ongoing act of culinary cowardice.
Crete, friends, is no country for cowards. Check out these tomatoes:
You see? This is what we call a dakos, which is a staple of Cretan folk cuisine and consists of a hearty bread rusk with chopped organic tomatoes topped with soft white oregano-dusted Cretan cheese drizzled with olive oil. No garlic, no basil, so we’re not talking bruschetta here. We are, however, talking a perfect Cretan breakfast dish that is likely to show up only in inferior iterations at your hotel’s breakfast buffet, if it makes an appearance there at all. The dakos pictured is served at the restaurant Parasties in Heraklion, at Chandakos 81 near the “Bedenaki,” the Dominican Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the Natural History Museum. And like many things in the Mediterranean world, the lines are wavy at best and they often blur, which means you could eat your dakos at 12 and still call it breakfast. Ditto for their delectable strapatsada:
Strapatsada is a traditional Greek breakfast dish of scrambled eggs with feta cheese and tomatoes. In Crete they forego the feta because Crete. And yes, it’s better that way. And no, you don’t just have to eat it a breakfast time. Oh and yes, it tastes even better than it looks, because Greece doesn’t do fake tomatoes. Pride in the land sort of thing. And pride in salads!
Now that salad, also served at Parasties, does take us more squarely into the province of lunch, but it’s August and asking us to keep changing the headline is just asking too much, but watch this: if you eat a good breakfast in Crete, one of the things that will happen is that you will want to eat more, but by the time you realize this it may indeed be time for another meal. Let it be lunch!
Crete is not really renowned for its seafood. It’s the agricultural breadbasket of Greece not on account of the fishies but because of the rich soil, endless olive groves, succulent (though way too cute for us to ever think of eating it) lamb, toothsome tomatoes, sweet bananas (yes), tangy artichokes and just about everything else that thrives under the hot Cretan sun. To experience this cuisine of the earth, you must steer clear of the coast with its mega resorts and tourist tavernas. Head inland. If America runs on Dunkin’ then Crete runs on the Lasithi Plateau, in the Lasithi region of eastern Crete, south of the tourist haven of Malia. This is the domain of Mount Dikti, a mountain that you don’t want to mess with, because Zeus was born here, and a taverna that you do, because it could change your life.
It is called the Dikti Taverna. That other site with the word trip in it (you know the one) ranks it the #1 restaurant in the area. Think comfort food in a casual setting, locally sourced and lovingly served. In other words, the real deal. Perhaps the best.
Look at these:
And these yummy stuffed grape leaves:
Tender meats with farm roasted potatoes:
Escargots si vous voulez…
If we saw ScarJo at Dikti Taverna, you don’t think we’d actually tell you, do you?
Dikti Taverna is easy to find. Call 30 2844 031255 now. Tell them Tripquake sent you.
Twee Bars are made in Thessaloniki, but you can buy them in Crete, too. These are great little snacks that consist of a fruity jelly center (try the blueberry) with bits of real fruit, crumbly cookie and a rich chocolate coating. Don’t eat too many at once though, you do want to leave room for a proper Cretan meal after all.
Remember too, when you rent a car in Crete (and this island is big: you’re going to need a car), always rent local.
And don’t let those seaside tavernas deceive you: yes you can have good seafood in Crete. But when it comes to a meal to truly remember, head for the hills, and chow down.