Cafe Avissinia - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Cafe Avissinia

Catch raucous live performances of traditional tunes at this old-school taverna. 

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Athens has no shortage of tavernas with antique-filled interiors and rooftop terraces offering Acropolis views. But what makes Cafe Avissinia special is the gusto of its live traditional folk music shows held on weekends from September to June.

The venue’s location in the central market district Monastiraki (“little monastery”) adds to the atmosphere: Patrons follow winding pedestrian-only back alleys past tiny shops and food vendors to a courtyard where the city’s most intriguing antique market sprouts on Sunday afternoons. Ketty Koufonikola, who founded the restaurant in 1986, was quite the treasure-hunter and the interior is cluttered with her old statues, vintage furniture, and ornate mirrors.

Around 5 p.m. at Avissinia, Athenians of all ages can be found boozily singing mournful rebetika songs to an accordion player (microphones are a no-no) and occasionally standing up between the tables to dance zeibekiko, a slow step with the head bowed and arms extended. The music is sometimes compared to “the Greek blues,” involving charmolypi, the intertwined mix of joy and sadness).

As an added bonus, the cafe’s regional cuisine is delicious: Try yaprakia, a Macedonian dish of sour cabbage stuffed with pork, or soutzoukakia, meatballs in tomato sauce with basmati rice—best enjoyed with a $5 tin jug of tangy moschofilero white wine to help you get into the dancing mood.

Know Before You Go

Performance schedules vary, so be sure to check in advance if you're hoping to watch a live set.

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July 1, 2024

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