Psistaria (Ψησταριά in Greek) is exclusively a Greek phenomenon. It is so called take away restaurant. If you google the word “psistaria”, you will find very little information about it. However it’s a “must know” word for everyone who is planning a trip to Cyprus.
Firstly, it’s a perfect way to be introduced to the Greek cuisine on a budget. Secondly, this is, as a rule, a perfect way to try Greek cuisine of the best quality too.
Let’s Fill the Gaps!
How is everything working here? You are stepping inside a psistaria and see the warm and appetizing food waiting for you on the counter. You are pointing on what you would like the most and the waiter (or the seller…it’s hard to tell who is who in psistarias) will put your order in the airtight plastic container. Then you pay for it and choose where do you want to eat: at home, on the beach or sitting on that bench next to you.
About a half of all psistarias on the island will offer you two options: you can order take away or eat right there, at the one of the tables. But there’s one significant nuance. The price you will pay for the food in this last case could be compared to those in a respectable restaurant. What’s more important: the price or the comfort — the choice is up to you.
What Kind of Food Can You Try in a Psistaria?
There is a pretty common selection of meals but each psistaria has its own special ones in addition to them.
The ordinary assortment you will find in most psistarias includes:
Pastitsio. It’s a variation of lasagna made of special long noodles with a hollow centre instead of sheets and covered with béchamel sauce.
Musaka. Looks exactly the same as pastitsio because it is also covered with béchamel sauce. The rest ingredients are potatoes, meat and eggplants.
Dolma. Stuffed vine leaf rolls. It might taste strange and too sour for the first time. To love it you probably have to get used to it first.
Kleftiko. This dish is a part of Cypriot traditional cuisine. It’s a lamb slow backed in the pit oven for a few hours. That’s how the meat becomes so tender that it literally melts in your mouth.
Afelia. It is another common Cyprus meal: marinated pork in red wine generously seasoned with coriander. The meat is cooked on the bone. I would not recommend ordering this dish in psistarias because they make it too greasy. Just imagine: pieces of lard swimming in olive oil. Not even every McDonalds’ fan can eat it without worrying about consequences. However in a classical version of this recipe the lard should be removed. Of course, no one is bothering with such a nicety at psistarias.
Cannelloni. It is a cylindrical type of lasagna: big round shaped macaroni stuffed with meat that resemble crepes.
Octopus. It is always cooked in a Cypriot manner: with wine and a plenty big amount of onion.
Kebab. Made on a grill. The meat isn’t marinated before grilling. There are chicken, pork and lamb kebabs. The last two are high fat meals. This dish is better to be avoided by people with digestive issues.
Pourgouri. Traditional garnish made out of bulgur, noodles and onion.
Moukentra/Mucendra. It’s the second most popular garnish on the island after pourgouri. The ingredients are lentils with onion, rice and tomato paste.
So you are familiar with the variety of the main dishes now. Let’s speak about particular take away psistarias of Limassol beginning with chain stores:
Sigma is the biggest chain of stores in Cyprus. With the cheap prices. If you come in the evening, right after the sunset, there is a good chance to get the second meal for free. Sigma is not only a psistaria, but also a bakery. There are small and pretty uncomfortable tables almost in all stores. I would give the quality of food a C+. Actually it’s not a place I would recommend you to visit. If you don’t have any other options at hand, it’ll do.
It is a small chain of only 3 restaurants. All three of them are situated on the outskirts of Limassol, in so called bedroom communities. They offer the customers quite good variety of meals; the quality is higher comparing to Sigma. The food is too greasy though, even by Cypriot standards. Some particular kinds of meals could taste terrible. No tables. I would not choose this one in your place.
Another small chain of psistarias. Google will tell you that there are only 2 restaurants in Limassol but actually there are more of them. Some restaurants are located inside big supermarkets that’s why they are not showed on Google maps.
This is where the meal is so delicious that you will feel a chill down your spine (in the best possible way, of course). A gourmet’s paradise. The food is relatively low fat one even with regard to Cypriot traditions. The assortment is huge. There is a 30% discount for everything after 21:00. Almost all the dishes are really tasty. My favourite is squid tempura. I tried it once and I’m addicted to it since then. Only three month later I succeeded to man up and keep myself from buying it at least for one week.
The prices are quite affordable. Some of these psistarias are furnished with tables, some are not, it comes down to luck. If you see somewhere Kapastos sign, don’t pass it by.
That’s all when it comes to the chain stores, and now we will tell you more about the specific psistarias:
1. ΔΙΟΜΗΔΗΣ Ψησταριά
It’s the best psistaria in the city to my opinion. The only one, which is open through the weekends what is more (its day off is Monday). By the way, the queues during the weekends are so long that the staff of the restaurant brings chairs for those who have to stand in the street to make the waiting process more comfortable.
The assortment is quite modest but every single dish is brilliant. Pearl barley with lamb is a weekend special. That one is just rad, you will lose your head over it.
The restaurant is zoned into two parts: the first one is where the food is sold and the second one is furnished with tables. If you take a seat in the second one, the waiter will be there to help you so there is no need to wait in the line. Please note, that the price will be about 30% higher accordingly. The decision is yours.
It is worth to mention that the psistaria is located not far from the touristic areas, on the Riga Fereou Street. You can just type ΔΙΟΜΗΔΗΣ Ψησταριά in Google searching bar and you will find it.
This is the right place to get you introduced to the Greek cuisine and fall in love with it.
2. Secret psistaria
You can’t find it on the maps. It works according to Cypriot time measurement system. That means you will never know when it is open or closed. It’s also a tiny one. However the food is just amazing. Especially the spinach ravioli. That is something. The prices are one of the lowest in the whole city, I guess. You can eat sitting at a table and not overpay for it at the same time. Here are the exactly coordinates of the psistaria: 34.682445, 33.031724. Yes, it’s pretty far, I know, and yes, it can be closed randomly. But c’mon, folks, this psistaria is worth your heroic deeds.
3. Food Boutique
I’m pretty sure that this one has the widest variety of meals. You can find even cabbage rolls here, what is rare in Cyprus, trust me. There is a separate area with the tables. Everything is beautiful and nice. However the prices are above average. When it comes to food, it’s pretty high on fat and the taste leaves much to be desired. The chef is definitely not a Cypriot, probably French or Italian. Would you try to visit this one or not — I’ll leave it up to you.
In addition to everything I’ve mentioned above, I can say that there is a dozen another psistarias around the city (none of them is in the touristic area by the way). Anyway, if you are hungry and see the magic word Ψησταριά somewhere nearby, it is worthy to go there. It’s a kind of generic rule that the food in psistaria will be both better and way cheaper than in taverns and ordinary restaurants.