The island of Mykonos may only span a mere 33 square miles, but its cultural and historical significance stretches over centuries. Nicknamed “the island of the winds” for its frequent seaside blustery breezes, Mykonos has over the years evolved from a Roman outpost to a locus of maritime trade to a beach mecca for tourists. While visitors soon find there is no shortage of opportunities to party long and hard, the island also offers a pleasantly docile atmosphere especially during the day. Pair this alternately relaxing and invigorating environment with impeccably prepared fresh food and drink and you have a welcome refuge from the more harried, crowded pace of Athens and Thessaloniki.
Carbohydrate heaven, at least in Mykonos, is at Attica Bakery. With an almost intimidating number of different types of muffins, rolls, breads stuffed with sweet and savory fillings, and loafs, choosing what to order will definitely be the hardest decision you make all day.
Cosmo Café has secured a loyal following for its strong coffee, sizeable omelets, muesli bowls loaded with yogurt and fresh fruit, and warm croissants made in-house. A casual vibe in combination with the occasional passing stray kitty makes the Café particularly popular with families with young children.
For a most bountiful, indeed unlimited, morning repast join the lines at the buffet at Karavaki. Located in Venicia hotel, Karavaki puts out an enviable spreads of dozens of different Greek and international breakfast dishes (salads, eggs every way, sausage, pastries, cold cuts) that are perfectly portioned so that you can, in fact, have it all without getting too full.
Some of the best swimming fuel can be found at Popolo, which distinguishes itself from other cafes due to its plethora of vegetarian options, extensive menu of coffee drinks (try the caramel cappuccino), and make-your-own salad sandwich option that includes lots of interesting extra add-ons such as red and green pesto, grapes, fig marmalade, and sesame seeds.
If you don’t do DIY at lunch, go for some of the formal pre-designed sammies such as the smoked tenderloin cream cheese or bresaola with anthotiro cheese and truffle sauce, all served on soft fresh-baked bread.
Need break from Mediterranean eats? Noodle Mykonos happily provides fast and very vegetarian-friendly Asian takeout (coconut curry rice, egg rolls, and Szechuan egg noodles) in a sparse little cubby just off one the island’s labyrinthine series of cobblestone streets.
With a sleek design and stellar cuisine, Vergera is a terrific place to grab a bite before embarking on or after departing from afternoon boat tours.
Customers are invited to pick out their own fish and specify preparation; a short while later your (whole) fish will arrive cooked to your liking and perfectly deboned. Other standouts include the linguine with lamb and sea urchin spaghetti.
Your evening meal in Mykonos can be as relaxed or formal as you desire, or both as many tavernas manage to churn out elegant comestibles against a backdrop of decidedly low-key décor, e.g., plastic chairs. Some of the most coveted tables are those found at Kiki’s Tavern, which due to its location overlooking the Agios Sostis beach, makes it a great spot for watching the sunset. Sip local wine and graze on small plates of grilled octopus and prawns paired with lentil and beet salads, but save room for the house special porkchops glistening with olive oil and sea salt.
For a most chic, decadent repast, head to the courtyard garden at Kalita, where traditional Greek staples have been reinvented by visionary chef Vaios Ntoysia. Order an “Elegance Drop” cocktail to sip while you peruse the sophisticated protein and pasta offerings. But first, some appetizers as dinner here is a marathon not a sprint.
The marinated cherry tomatoes and sitia cheese, foie gras with apples poached in pomegranate juice, and fried zucchini will tide you over as you transition to your first glass of local wine and decide on your main course. And, speaking of which, while it’s hard to go wrong, three entrees easily vie for first place: the exotic black cod with cauliflower cream, pillowy black truffle gnocchi, and unctuous suckling pig with figs. You decide on the winner.
Joanna’s Niko’s Place is perhaps the definition of Athenian charm. Enjoy voluminous platters of fried seafood on wooden tables (right on the beach) cloaked in blue-and-white checked tablecloths. Lighter but equally compelling fare can be hand in the form dishes such as seafood risotto, roasted eggplant with melted feta, and a rotating assortment of traditional dips such as melitzanosalata, tzatziki, etc. The aforementioned are also excellent to share should your party comprise multiple indecisive members.
Gelato is ubiquitous in Mykonos and while you would be hard-pressed to find bad options, some establishments stand out for more than others for the diversity in their sub-zero confection offerings. Gelarte Ice Cream not only vends creamy gelato in flavors such as mint, Snickers, pistachio, tiramisu, and baklava but also Western-style ice cream, sorbet, parfaits, and milkshakes, all of which can be enjoyed in their ample al fresco seating area.
For absolutely fabulous non-frozen sweets, check out Niko’s Pastry à la Minute. Locals and transplants claim this bakery is the source of the island best baklava; however, their other rich delicate desserts such as cheesecake, chocolate mousse, mille feuille, and fruit tarts are also worth scarfing, er, we, mean sampling.
Before heading to the club Bask in the ethereal blue glow of Alley Cocktail Bar and enjoy some of the best of what Mykonos has to offer in terms of mixology. Libations range from the vintage (Moscow Mule) to the classic (mojito) to the delightfully tacky tikki, each which are expertly paired with the appropriate glassware.
Then head to sand for more spirits at Panormos’ beach bar, where you’re liable to catch a glimpse of a European celebrity or two as weave your way drink in hand through the well-heeled crowd.
I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, grew up in central Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and now calls Houston, Texas home. After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in English, I earned a PhD in Victorian literature from Rice University. I currently serve as a culinary consultant, food historian, and travel/food critic for various print and online outlets. My exploits can be found at www.brideyoleary.com.