Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Taste of America in Greece

greek-mac.jpgPhoto ‘Physiar’ on virtualtourist.com

Long ago, McDonald’s came up with the idea of providing consistent and familiar food no matter where or when someone was hungry. For better or worse, they achieved that goal and others followed.

However, unlike American and other countries, fast food in Greece is expensive and considered a luxury item for the elite, not an affordable option for a majority. This has always been the case, even before recession.

Whether you’re an American looking for a taste of home or a world citizen in search of something different, there are franchises and American-like options in Greece to satiate such needs and desires.

All links lead you to an official site, company page or store locator for Greece. Kali Orexi!

*Article last updated January 3, 2015. However, information in ‘Comments’ reflects whatever was true at the time.

American franchises/products in Greece

  • Ben and Jerry’s: Found at Allou Fun Park, Golden Hall, some Ster Cinemas locations, Ano Patissia, Glyfada, Kifisia, Piraeus in Athens; Thessaloniki; and Irakleio, Crete. Note that only 16 flavors are available, so you might not find your favorite.
  • Cinnabon at the Athens Metro Mall & Starbucks (burned down in February 2012 riots and reopened)
  • Domino’s: Athens, Thessaloniki, Halkida and Crete.
  • Haagen Dazs: Athens, Corfu (Kerkyra), Crete, Kavala, Kefallonia, Mykonos, Santorini, Thessaloniki, Tinos.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC): Has locations in Athens, Corfu (Kerkyra), Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos but island locations only open in summer.
  • McDonald’s: Once a burgeoning chain with 48 locations, only 19 remain (five only operate in summer) due to profit margins falling 70 percent since the start of crisis and its former CEO/CFO sentenced to 18 months in prison. New locations in Hersonissos, Crete and Spata, Athens were announced June 2013 and 2014.
  • Mrs. Fields Cookies: Original location in Halandri shut down. Cookie cafe in Nea Erythraia hanging on, being in an affluent area.
  • Pizza Hut: Athens only, with franchise owner shutting down all Thessaloniki locations. Some Athens locations may close, depending on how many employees voluntarily quit or agree to a 30-40 percent pay cut.
  • Starbucks — Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes. Chain peaked during Athens 2004 but has been decimated, promising cheaper cappuccino in 2012
  • Subway — Summer-only locations; Athens and Thessaloniki closed
  • TGI Friday’s in Athens only

The economic crisis has forced many shops to close without advance notice, and company websites are rarely updated to reflect this.

A location you visited or saw listed a few days ago can shut down and be gone in less than a week. Keep this in mind if you have a credit or customer loyalty card. There may not be a sign on the door to notify customers, and the new owner could gut a location and reopen with no hint of the previous.

Many island locations only open in summer.

© Photo by Sebastiaan Kroes, used with written permission

American-ish places

*Rude service when eating in restaurant.

Once in Greece but now gone

  • Applebee’s: Last location in Glyfada, Athens (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare) shut down at end of 2013. Unrest/fires closed locations in Thessaloniki, and the crisis took care of the rest. Kathimerini reported that all locations shut down in July 15, 2011 after 15 years in Greece, but this is inaccurate. Milomel Hellas had the exclusive franchise rights and still owes wages to employees who lost their jobs without warning. — Ta Nea, Applebee’s Squat
  • Baskin-Robbins
  • Bennigan’s — Location in Thessaloniki shut down at end of summer 2013.
  • Burger King — Was here in 1990s. There was talk about a return to Greece in September 2010 when BK was sold for 3.26 billion, but they turned to Asia and Latin America. In December 2014, a new joint venture announced it would expand in Italy, Poland, Romania and Greece.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts — Pangrati, Piraeus and Glyfada all shut down. To see why it failed, see my comment on August 29, 2008 at 22:21.
  • Hard Rock Cafe: Locations in downtown Athens, Glyfada and Mykonos are all closed as of March 2013. Cafes in Piraeus and Rhodes were unofficial “renegade” (aka, not real) HRCs
    *Athens location is operating but is not official. It’s using the brand, menu (not recipes) and logos without permission to fool people as a way to make money. This is the reason you won’t find any official T-shirts or other merchandise for sale.
  • Hooters — The only franchise location in Greece had been located at the Mall of Athens. Not sure when it closed, but its website was taken down early 2012 and the Facebook page disappeared soon after. It had a string of bad reviews for terrible food and service long before. Official Hooters website doesn’t list Greece amongst its international locations.
  • Kenny Rogers’ Roasters – Only in California and Asia
  • Papa John’s
  • Ruby Tuesday closed its last location at the Athens Mall in late 2012 (Facebook, Estiatoria). Piraeus and Thessaloniki locations shut down late 2011, early 2012.
  • Sbarro at the Athens airport
  • Taco Bell at the Athens Metro Mall opened November 30, 2010 and closed August 2012, though its domain name is still active. Like so many other franchises that fail, it needed to charge a lot of money for small portions to be profitable, did not attract local Greeks and disappointed people who tasted the real thing in America.
  • Taco Time
  • Wendy’s — Franchise said it may come back after a 10-year absence in 2009, but the crisis hit and management shifted focus elsewhere.

Name-brand fast food chains have seen significant losses since the start of crisis in 2009, as offerings are considered overpriced niche items — often more expensive than wealthier nations — and out of reach of most consumers suffering from record-high unemployment and austerity.

Please note the following

1. The American way of food service does not apply

2. Prices are higher and vary by location

— Since these establishments are offering something unique, it’s normal to pay more and get less
— There is no price standardization, so franchisers can charge whatever they want. For example, a McDonald’s apple pie can cost 1.20 in Marousi but 0.99 in Syntagma

3. Menu options will be limited and/or customized to the local culture

— Greek Mac (or other version of stuffed pita), Money Bags and Fanta are offered instead of the Southwestern Chipotle Snack Wrap, Minty Mudd Bath Triple Thick Shake and Hi-C
— Regular BBQ chicken wings are sometimes and erroneously called Buffalo wings
— There is no popcorn chicken at KFC in Greece and Extra Crispy only appears on two items as Blazin’ and Zinger as of 2011. Otherwise, it’s only Original Recipe and it tastes different.

4. Freshness standards are often not followed

— Many places have no qualms about serving day-old, precooked, wilted or stale food.
— Employees at Cinnabon have been seen burning and making buns explode in the oven, then attempting to sell them.

5. Quality of food not only varies between the American and Greek versions, but also between locations in Greece

— Inconsistency is due to the variation of raw ingredients, the decisions of a particular franchiser, staff, lack of quality control at the local and corporate level
— There are three different versions of blue cheese dressing at the Hard Rock Cafe, depending on the day you go; Domino’s in your current neighborhood may be OK, but moving to another area may be oily and disappointing.
— Some owners swap ingredients to save money or appeal to local tastes, but then disappoint people who know the original

6. Beware of product interpretations

— Bagels from Greek bakeries are often doughnut cut-outs of regular bread and taste/look as such. A reader says that plain, garlic and everything bagels can be found in restaurants of some IKEA locations; the Marriott in Athens serves them at breakfast
— Caesar salad often has honey mustard dressing, corn and no croutons or anchovies.
— Croutons are toasted stale bread cubes that are neither crispy, nor tasty
— Everything with peppers and onions tends to be (wrongly) called Oriental
— Everything with curry tends to be (wrongly) called Indian

7. Grocery chains and mom-and-pop stores sell American items, but they’re grossly overpriced and sometimes expired

— If you’re desperate for a taste of the USA, you can pay outrageous prices of 2 euros per can of soda (ginger ale, root beer, cherry Coke, cherry 7up) or 15 euros for a box of cereal. A friendly warning: Soda may sit around unsold for awhile and be flat when you purchase it, and look at the expiration of items since many owners do not adhere to them.
— There are things that never come to Greece simply because the majority of residents and store owners have no clue what it is, are nationalistic and/or not open to new things
— There is no such thing as an American supermarket in Greece; there are only Greek supermarkets in Greece that carry American products (many manufactured in the EU). The rest are considered ethnic food markets or suppliers.

* I cannot give a list of stores for two reasons: a) Availability is highly individual to location, not chain-wide, and can suddenly be discontinued without notice or reason — it’s impossible to keep information current; b) I believe it’s wrong to give free advertising to stores that practice price gouging and tax evasion.

8. There is a worldwide tendency to rip off names or logos of establishments without any actual association with the original brand or concept.

— Big Boy is a pizza place, not a hamburger joint
— Lick’s BBQ in Athens is a not an official Lick’s Homeburgers but rather a bad copycat started by a Greek from Canada who ripped off the logo and menu.

9. Some items are seasonal or appear sporadically.

— Cotton candy, also called cotton floss and old lady’s hair, is available at street fairs, children’s events, the pazari (flea market/bazaar) and panayiri for name days of a church/neighborhood/municipality.

10. Ethnic food is dumbed down

— The majority of Greeks are adverse to certain flavors, so any non-Greek food you know as hot, spicy, fishy or exotic will be toned down or omitted entirely. In a word, bland.
— However, there is Tabasco, Louisiana pepper sauce and kerato peppers (light green horn peppers) at the supermarket, and plenty of ethnic food markets in Greece selling Asian, African, Mexican, Indian and other ingredients so you can prepare them at home.

One must ultimately choose whether it’s worth the extra money and compromise in taste if there are no plans to leave Greece and eat the real thing. I choose to do without or make clones at home from scratch, which takes longer but tastes better.

* Special thanks to McKroes, my foodies, readers and Greek-American posse for their valuable input

FAQ

Is there a Pollo Loco, Red Robin, Outback Steakhouse, Tony Roma’s, Krispy Kreme… in Greece?

No.

Is it true that Wal-Mart is opening a store in Greece?

On November 16, 2012, Naftemporiki reported that Wal-Mart has agreed to a joint venture with a Thessaloniki entity. No details on when or where a store might open, and there has been no update. Don’t assume it will be in Athens, as a northern location could easily attract cross-border retail shoppers.

Note to all commentators

Please limit advice to facts and specifics. Rumors, guessing or cloudy recollection of what you might have seen many months ago is not helpful to other people, as things change rapidly and without warning in Greece. I will edit comments accordingly.

*The option to comment is now closed due to infighting, name-calling and spiteful notes left on this post, Facebook and online forums.

Related posts

American fast food the world loves” — Forbes
Crazy American things
Corn dogs in Athens?
Συρρικνώνεται ο κλάδος μαζικής εστίασης” — To Vima
Where to get a turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas in Greece

σως γιαουρτιού (sour cream)

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite6_1_18/08/2013_514260

110 Comments

  EllasDevil wrote @ September 9th, 2007 at 00:38

I constantly hear that McDonalds isn’t doing that great here in Greece. You know I’m old enough to remember what life was like before all these chains came along. Hell, I remember life before the private channels came along and we were stuck with only government crapola.

Anyway back to the important stuff. I remember my cousin used to take me to Wendys in Kifissia when I was a kid (mainly because her high school boyfriend worked there and she wanted to sit there and look dreamingly at him).

I could kill a subway sandwich right about now but I dunno where my nearest one is. Help!

PS: Kalo mina 🙂

Kat Reply:

ED – Yeah, I remember Wendy’s in Syntagma and in Rhodes, and Baskin in Syntagma. You know what’s funny — I saw a ton of chain restaurants in India, even in remote places.

Find the location nearest you with the link I provided and kill the sandwich my hungry friend! 🙂 (The addresses are hosted on my site now to avoid the Subway website mishaps). *As of Sept 2009, all Subway locations are closed.

  PIC wrote @ September 9th, 2007 at 09:14

Great article. What I really wish they had was a “Noah’s Bagels” or other type place. That’s one of the things I miss the most. Authentic Bagels.

  John Tsevdos wrote @ September 9th, 2007 at 10:39

Another lovely post dear !!! I have to admit that in eating habits, I’m probably more American than you (ok, I’m eating souvlakia as well, but burgers are my favorite!). I’m looking forward to visiting the US one day and trying some real American burger houses like In ‘n Out! C u around…

Kat Reply:

JT – Very possible. I never sought out American things while here because they’re usually a good distance away & I have no car, and it usually doesn’t taste the same, which I find disappointing for the high price. I’ve always cooked and eaten international, so I’ll only make “clone” copies of American things I really miss — Cinnabon, corn dogs, Orange Julius, potato skins, Hooters buffalo wings (taught the butcher’s wife when she saw me buying wings). It’s cheaper and tastes better.

Don’t forget Carl’s Jr., Nation’s hamburgers, Quarter Pounder, White Castle, Chili’s and Outback Steakhouse. They all make very different burgers with different tastes — all worth trying once. But I believe ED was the first to sign up for the food tour. 😉

  arammos wrote @ September 9th, 2007 at 16:48

Great post Kat.

Kat Reply:

Arammos – Thanks agape mou

  yiannos wrote @ September 11th, 2007 at 08:27

one of the more ‘interesting'(re:humourous) ways that Greeks express their anti-american sentiment, IMO, is through bypassing mcdonald’s, burger king, and other such franchises in favour of Goody’s, when Goody’s is little more than a loose amalgam of various American fast food chains anyway. they seem to think because it’s Greek owned, that makes it ok, as it means they are putting their own ‘spin’ on it. whatever 😉

i was very surprised to hear that a Hooters opened in Athens though because as far as American ‘pop-culture’ goes, that’s really scraping the bottom of the defective barrel isn’t it? considering the hostility to U.S culture in general there, they have certainly made enough inroads over the years.

Kat Reply:

Yiannos – I suppose anyone could justify going to these places because they’re ALL Greek-owned franchises. And regarding Hooters, the people who go there only care that it’s boobs with a side of food — it’s no more “bottom of the barrel” than any club, commercial, magazine or TV program in GR, really.

  A wrote @ November 12th, 2007 at 06:28

I thought of your site yesterday, as we had dinner at “Opa” in Astoria, on 31st street (excellent souvlaki) and finished with a trip to Titan Foods, where we acquired two cases of nBn portokalada (my children called this “en-bee-en” – they can only handle one foreign alphabet at a time). Having spent time in NY, you must be familiar with Titan or Mediterranean (which has spawned a second outlet) – these are the stores where you can go and buy many of the same brands you find in AB. For my mother, who lived in Greece full time for one year, this is a true walk down memory lane. My children are delighted by the bakery section, and we stock up on Nescafe (gotta have the Nes – it tastes different in the Greek version), energy7, sour cherry juice, nBn and helios pasta makaronia No. 1 (a family friend’s pasta)). My mother visits the 14 kinds of olives and 6 kinds of feta, and I visit the magazine rack and peruse the Louky Louk books – bringing back memories of my summers in Greece as a child. My mother was reminded how easily the unique memories of Greece return when you are in Astoria.

The Alma Bank atm doesn’t work; the pay phones don’t work; the line at kyklades and uncle george’s and omonia is out the door, but the pastries and olives and cheese and yogurt and filo at Titan are as fresh as the little store around the corner from our friend’s house in Agia Pareskevi.

Something about nBn is special, however – reminds me of the days when every summer was measured by a lemonada, portokalada or gazoza every two or three hours, when we made “epno” (which for us, meant stayed in the rooms and read comix), and watched reruns of the Saint (which was the only English language show we could see). A glass of nBn over ice is the perfect cure for a NY rate race life.

(i have turned my non-Greek friends on to Titan – the best olives, of course, but they are also stocking up on nBn – as a drink mixer – it makes a wonderful mimosa).

Kat Reply:

A – You really took me back for a minute. I know all of the places you named, as I lived in Astoria about 2 blocks from Titan and one block I think from Opa. There is an older gentleman next door making olive bread in a stone oven, and occasionally I’d stop at Zodiac for a drink. Every Saturday, I’d go early to the manabis and speak Greek with the family who owned the store, and they’d bring stuff out from the back for me.

nBn is good for mimosas if you don’t like pulp.

I liked Astoria because the whole world was in that neighborhood and barely anyone could speak English, thus giving me the opportunity to stay up on my Greek and Spanish and learn some Arabic. It was also cheaper for some reason to buy imported Greek products in America, than it was to buy the same thing in Greece. But that’s a comment for another post.

The point is, just as America can be found in Greece, Greece can be found in America as well.

  Yianni wrote @ December 28th, 2007 at 13:36

I wish there was a Taco bell. They have pizza hut and KFC you would figure they would have Taco bell since all 3 franchises are owned by the same company.

Oh yeah and where could I get a nice 16oz New york steak? Like a good grade “A” steak ? I miss steak damn it! Funny, when I was in Toronto I missed seafood and now I’m here and I miss Steak.

Kat Reply:

Taco Time is on the list of defunct franchises in the post. There is a restaurant with delivery called Taco Bueno that is run by a fabulous woman, and Dos Hermanos (although one hermano returned to the USA last year) run by a Greek-American that is also good. Otherwise, I make my own Mexican food.

  The Scorpion wrote @ December 29th, 2007 at 08:42

Yianni: There is a wonderful meat market in Voula that has all the U.S. Cuts, and also wonderful U.S. style cuts from New Zealand. You can get NORMAL rib eye steaks, T-Bones, NY Steak etc. Apparently, a Greek Ship owner gets all his meat there as well. So for those Greeks who don’t just go to a taverna and order a steak without knowing that there are several ways you can order one (rare, m-rare, medium, m-well, well done), this place is for you. It’s Spiros’ meat market, located in Voula on Digeni 17, and their phone number is 210-895-1471.

Also, regarding Taco Bell. They had a taco time (similiar to taco bell) in Glyfada in the 1990s, but it did not do well.

Remember, Greek taste buds are generally used to bland food, so something spicy like Mexican food just doesn’t go over well here.

Kat Reply:

I can vouch for Scorpion’s meat market suggestion. If you go to a restaurant such as the one we visited on my fiance’s birthday, you’ll pay an exorbitant price for someone to serve you that same slab of beef that is already overpriced. But if you really want it, have at it.

Personally, I always wait until I take a trip outside Greece for a proper steak, prime rib or filet mignon. In the meantime, I remind myself that red meat is full of free radicals and GR is actually saving my health. 😉

  Nikos wrote @ January 19th, 2008 at 21:41

Where can I get REAL pastrami here? No, not the turkey thing at AB… Any input will be great.

Kat Reply:

I’ve never seen pastrami, not even at the “special” store you mentioned (I’m sorry I had to delete the name). I normally just wait until I’m in NY and go to the deli to get a stacked up sand. Certain things I learn to live without after a decade, as well.

  Vasiliki wrote @ June 13th, 2008 at 00:52

No one mentioned “Goodies”. They have what they call a “pink sauce” which is the same as 1000 island dressing (without the islands).

Kat Reply:

Actually, Yiannos mentioned Goody’s above in his comment. It’s not on the list because it’s not American. Plus, as you point out, they use substitutions that are a bit disgusting. In addition to pink sauce, ketchup is used to make “pasta red sauce.” Brrrrr.

  dimitris wrote @ July 3rd, 2008 at 14:47

I think you should try the “American Burger” in Glyfada, its owned by Greek Americans and it has the best burger in town. Its also one of the few places in town you can actually get a DR.Pepper

  Nick wrote @ July 7th, 2008 at 16:19

Where can you get Welch’s in Greece?

Kat Reply:

N – In my 11 years, I’ve never found Welch’s jam at any of the stores selling American goods, even for a hefty price. But as of June 2009, select Alfa Vita locations sell Welch’s grape juice in 1-liter paketos for 2 euros, but it’s only the sugar-free Lite version, which in my opinion isn’t the same taste as the full-on sugar. My American posse says the only places they’ve found them are at the American Embassy and the Souda Bay Navy exchange that is only accessible to U.S. military personnel and retirees. I buy a few in the USA when I’m there and bring them back. Otherwise, I live without.

  Mark wrote @ August 28th, 2008 at 06:34

My pregnant wife had a craving for Dunkin Donuts so I drove all the way to Glyfada. I discovered it was closed and my wife was sooo sad. I talk to a Greek co worker and he told me there were several locations in Athens. I went to google earth and looked them up. I spent last sunday driving all around town and never found a one. Did they all close?

  Christopher wrote @ August 28th, 2008 at 13:52

Hi there! Long time no talk! Just wanted to say that as of the end of July the Piraeus Dunkin’ Donuts appeared to still be open (I happened to being walking by, but didn’t actually stop to go in as I utterly despise DD).

  kostadamosta wrote @ August 28th, 2008 at 19:29

Does anyone know why Greeks haven’t discovered ranch dressing? If they have, where can I find some?

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.