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Greeks love their coffee and instead of Ouzo, they drink coffee all day long; coffee bars have replaced Ouzerias. My favorite coffee bar in Kamari was Anna’s, which has both indoor and outdoor sections (like all restaurants and cafes along the beachfront).
In the summer, the coffee drink of choice if the Cafe Frappe, which is basically instant coffee, with sugar and milk poured over ice. They serve complimentary marble cake with all their coffee drinks and snacks with all their alcoholic drinks (some people were drinking beer as their breakfast beverage).
I asked for my coffee with no sugar or milk, but received it with a bit of both, albeit I’m sure less than the full dose. The coffee was not bad, but not something I would drink as often as I saw all the Greeks drinking it.
One of my favorite Greek foods is spanokopita, or spinach pastry, and they sell them in every bakery in Santorini for 3 Euros ($5 USD), so I bought one to taste an authentic one. I was surprised at the shape and size; they are about 8″ in diameter and round coils filled with spinach and feta.
Lucky’s is so popular, they even have a Facebook fan page! They are located right on the main square of Fira, one block above the bus station, so they get plenty of foot traffic. The staff all speak excellent English and Veronica, the cashier, has relatives in California!
The gyro here was unlike any I have ever eaten; I think my tourists think the same thing about hamburgers when all they have ever tasted are fast food versions. This pita was fluffy (!!!!) and toasted (!!!!!) and the pork was grilled with a nice crust and spice(!!!!!). The pita I ate here made me redefine gyros. Yes, they put french fries in the gyro, and there was fresh lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki in the meal that included a drink (soda or beer) for a grand total of 3,20 Euros ($5 USD). I think I smiled after every bite!
When I asked Vaggelis, the manager of Oceanis Studios for his favorite gyro place, he said there were two that were good, but one souvlaki place that was great in Kamari named Minas. I opted for Minas, located on the corner of Appollonas and an unnamed street between the beach and the outdoor cinema (more on that later). It opens at 5pm and most customers are locals (always a good sign); I was the only non-Greek in the crowd.
Since pork seems to be so juicy and tasty in the gyros, I ordered it as a skewer for only 1.20 Euro ($1.50 USD); this was one of the tastiest skewers of roast pork I have ever had. Everything in the place is immaculate, and they grill your order as soon as you hand your paid ticket to the cook. Some people ordered food to go and their plates were stacked 20 high with these skewers as they headed out for their large families or parties (there was no way I could eat more than 2 skewers).
I came back another night and tried the chicken skewer, which was good, but I preferred the pork from the first night. Vaggelis also recommended the cheese stuffed sausage, but when I ordered it and found a cheese stuffed hot dog, I simply chalked it up everyone liking something foreign in their meals.
Kamari is the world class black beach where I stayed during my trip to Santorini.
The black rocks are a result of the volcanic activity (there is still an active volcano which you can visit) and because of the rocks, the water is clear, the area is dustfree, and you should bring water shoes if you want to walk on the beach or wade into the water.
You simply retain your receipt from the guy who comes by to collect the rental fee and leave your towel on the chair; you can leave your chair to eat lunch, go to your hotel, shop, and your place will be reserved from sunrise until sunset.
Almira became one of my favorite restaurants during my stay in Santorini. Kamari Beach has about 8 km (5 miles) of restaurants, shops, and markets along the beach that is maintained by the city. The walkway is completely pedestrian after 10 am (deliveries of supplies to the shops and restaurants have a few cars using the roadway in the early morning hours.)
Finding the great restaurants along the string of tourist traps is like trying to find the diamonds among pebbles which make up the black beach, but Almira is definitely a gem.
The warm glow of the tables of Almira are a harbinger of the good things that come out of their kitchen. The multilingual and very efficient staff are the perfect balance of professionalism without being pushy restaurant “hawkers” that some neighboring restaurants use to get diners to their tables.
Their Greek Salad was the BEST I have ever eaten; a perfect composition of locally grown ( in volcanic soil) tomatoes and cucumbers, with fresh feta, olives, and red onion shavings. This huge salad was only $6 US and could have been a meal by itself. I ordered a glass of the local wine ($6 US) and I was very happy to have it served cold and dry as I had requested.
My favorite dish here was the grilled Gilt Head Sea Bream in a tomato, olive, and caper sauce (about $18 US), served with carrots, potatoes, and rice. This was so delicious, that I came back twice for this same dish in later days because I could not get my mouth to stop watering for it. It is a huge portion, so on later visits, I skipped the salad so I would have room to finish it.
I arrived in Santorini at 11am and I was ready to eat after waiting in Athens airport for 6 hours for my connecting flight from London. I quickly learned that the restaurants in Santorini do not open until noon or 1pm for meals, so my only options were cafes which served coffee or light snacks. I went to several before deciding to go to the cafe closest to my hotel, Splash. Not only did it have a beautiful view (as do ALL the restaurants along the beach), but I loved the decor.
I did not want breakfast, so I ordered the appetizer plate, which turned out to be cheeses, meats, olives, and tomatoes for about $10 US. It was a very hearty plate and I could only manage to eat a few bites of the rich offerings. This was the plate that introduced me to the famous Santorini tomatoes, grown in the local volcanic soil, which burst with flavor unlike any I have ever had.
With my eyes drinking in the view of the beach and my stomach craving something lighter, I headed down the side street to Lolo’s which starts serving food at 1pm (I went by at noon and they were only serving coffee at that early hour). Their garden patio was very pretty and offered plenty of shade.
I quickly learned that water is an essential part of life at this beach and ordered the sparkling water, along with a glass of the local white wine (about $5 US). I don’t know if it was the early service or the heat, but my wine arrived warm and when I asked for ice (yes it was THAT warm I needed ice to drink it), they charged me .8 Euro to fulfill my request.
I ordered the seafood salad (about $12 US), hoping for a taste of the local seafood and something lighter than the appetizer I had just eaten down the street. It was lighter fare than Splash, but the imitation crab in the salad was a sad disappointment; it would have been just as mediocre a salad without the addition, and I would not have been as critical if it had not been the first thing I saw in my salad.
The wonderful local tomatoes, fresh romaine, and bits of fish did help make this a passable salad, but so far my meals in Santorini were not spectacular. I learned later in the evening that there was wonderful food here; I just had to wait until the good places opened to find delicious fresh food awaiting me both on Kamari Beach and along the Caldera.
My first view of Santorini from the plane.
I stayed at the Oceanis Bay Studios in Kamari during my stay in Santorini and I must say that it was the perfect place for a relaxing beach holiday. I can’t think of anywhere else in Western Europe where you can get accommodations like this on the beach for 55 Euros a night (about $75 USD). As you can see from this photo of me on the balcony of my studio, it is literally across the road from the black beach of Kamari.
Between the studios and the beach, the owners kept a beautiful garden, which provided fresh flowers for the rooms and a marvelous lush green respite from the heat of the beach. People walking on the beach path were constantly stopping to take pictures of the garden.
The studio is huge, with a full dining area, fridge, hot plates, utensils, plates, cups, pots & pans, and even a tea kettle. It has a great air conditioning unit and even satellite television. I turned it on during my stay just to see what was on, and once I saw they were showing “The Nanny” in English with Greek subtitles, I turned it off.
The bathroom was small with new amenities, but adequate for a beach side stay. Larger people might have a problem fitting into the shower. They changed the sheets and mopped DAILY, providing fresh towels every other day and even gave me a beach towel to use during my stay. This was one of the most spotless places I have ever stayed.
Not only was the location superb at the end of the busy beach front hustle of restaurants and shops, but my wonderful hosts Vaggelis & Analypsi who own and run the place made my stay unforgettable. They provided everything from restaurant recommendations to explaining how things work (beach lounges and sunbrellas belong to the city and you pay to rent them all day), and where to visit besides the main tourist attractions (Pyrgos and Ammoundi). The only thing that did not work was the WiFi, but it did not seem to work at any location at the beach due to the winds, so I was forced to simply enjoy being there, not a bad thing at all.