Street food is the simplest and cheapest kind of fast food. Each country has fast food that is closely identified with them, like shawarma (kind of kebab wrapped in flatbread) in Russia, nasi goring (fried rice with chicken and vegetables) in Indonesia, small grilled birds in Cambodia and Döner (Turkish specialty) in Germany where it competes with traditional sausages (Würstchen). The most popular fast food of Cyprus is of course gyros. However there is a lot more than this. In this article we want to tell you about yummy snacks you can buy really cheap on example of Limassol street food.
Limassol is in some way the most well developed and advanced city of the country. Some kind of party lifestyle atmosphere is also present here. That’s why the variety of street food is quite impressive. So, let’s speak about the most popular “to go” options that the coastal “capital” offers to its guests.
Souvlaki Cafes (Souvlakias)
Short historical overview: thousand years ago a part of West Anatolia Region (currently the territory of the Turkey) belonged to Greece. Greece lost these territories during the wars that followed soon, but the main part of the locals of Greek origin stayed living there. So Greeks and Turks lived nearby for a long time and observed the life and culture of each other. Greeks liked Turkish döner (kebab) and they started to make it too but on their own way and called the new dish — gyros.
Because of the persecutions during the World War I the main part of Anatolian Greeks moved to their historical homeland. That is how Greece and then the whole world met the new kind of fast food. Gyros immediately won love of people all over the world.
Going back to the present days, souvlakias run the world. You can taste gyros almost everywhere around the globe: in USA, Russia, Germany, Thailand etc. Probably there is no one left who doesn’t know what is gyros. It is tiny sliced meat with chips and vegetables dressed with tzatziki sauce and wrapped in pita bread. Right? Well, it’s not quite true. Everything is more complicated, actually. It has its own features that are worth to know.
1. Gyros and pita gyros. What the difference? First is more likely a course of food and second — a street food. Common gyros consists of meat with salad and sauce served on a plate. You receive pita gyros wrapped in paper what is convenient for eating on the go.
2. Gyros and souvlaki. What the difference? The main difference is meat. The meat for gyros is sliced of the vertical rotisserie (same for döner and shawarma). Souvlaki is more like a kind of barbeque or shish kebab. Gyros is the main street food in Greece, and Cypriots favour souvlaki. It’s a bit more difficult to find gyros than souvlaki in Cyprus but of course not impossible.
3. Greek souvlaki (and gyros) and Cyprus souvlaki (and gyros). What the difference? The difference between these two kinds is very obvious. According to the Greek tradition the meat is wrapped in pita while Cypriots prefer to slice pita bread in a half and stuff it with filling. By the way the second kind is healthier — there is no chips in it. Sometimes it is also without tzatziki sauce too. At least they put more vegetables in it. Technically Cyprus souvlaki and gyros are a lot of salad mixed with meat inside the pita bread.
As a rule, Cyprus souvlaki and gyros are bigger than Greek ones. One portion is really huge, but it wouldn't be a problem for those who spent years eating in McDonalds preparing for it. That is also the reason why Cyprus gyros is more expensive: about 4,5 Euros comparing to 3,5 Euros for Greek one. As for me, I think Greek gyros is way more tasty. Tzatziki sauce and chips do the trick.
I didn’t count all the souvlakias, but I’m pretty sure there are more than one hundred of them in Limassol. The recipe differs from one to another as well as the taste. The last one is sometimes far from what you would call a yummy meal. However there are some jewels among them. I consider ΣΟΥΒΛΑΚΙ ΛΙΒΑΔΕΙΑΣ the best souvlakia I’ve ever eaten at. It is located on Arch. Makarios III Avenue few meters away from the beach. You will find souvlakias at every step in this part of the town, but there’s only one that deserves your attention. It can be identified by the colours of the Greek flag used on the signboard: blue and white.
They don’t make gyros here, only souvlaki. And it’s just perfect. The chips are made in some special kind of way too. The tiny souvlakia is always crowded inside. You should definitely start your discovery of the Greek street food from this point.
Lebanese Street Food
Lebanon is one of the Cyprus closest (geographically) neighbours — it is situated only 240 km away. And the influence of its culture on the island is plain enough. As a rule you can identify Lebanese street food by the cedar often painted on the signboards (cedar is a national symbol that is depicted on the flag of this country).
What do they sell? The main street food here is shawarma. But it’s not just any shawarma, you know. It’s the Lebanese shawarma! However it’s taste and look differs not very much from what you are used to see in other countries.
The average price doesn’t change much from that you will pay somewhere in Europe and varies from 4 to 6 Euros depending on the ingredients. May be the size will seem a bit smaller.
Shawarma on the island is made without chips, but with pickles and jalapenos instead that make the taste more interesting.
If you ask me for what is better gyros or shawarma, I’ll definitely choose gyros because the portion is bigger, the taste better and the price lower. Lebanese street food has one great feature though; this kind of cafes closes very late in the evening, probably later than any other food corners. So if you feel an urgent need to grab some snack in the middle of the night and it’s very empty inside your fridge — Lebanese street food will save the day (or the night in this case).
Anyway there’s something else except shawarma that you can taste under the cedar signboard. How about lahmajoun — a kind of Arabian pizza Lebanese street food can offer you? Its ingredients are minced meat, tomato sauce and spices served on the thin flatbread. You can also buy here Lebanese meatballs (deep fried) and falafel. Personally I don’t like these things. But as they say, tastes differ. At least it could be interesting to try. To make sure that you definitely will eat the best of it, I want to recommend you one of the oldest (opened in 1985) places in the city: Sam’s Food. It is located on 232 Arch. Makarios III Avenue, five minutes from ΣΟΥΒΛΑΚΙ ΛΙΒΑΔΕΙΑΣ. Remember to search for green cedar and you won’t pass it by.
By the way its chef has made it into the Guinnes Book of Records! He made the shawarma that weighed fifteen hundred kilograms!
Asian Street Food
This street food is recently a trend for a few years. Asians are living mostly in the old town of Limassol not far from the seafront promenade. Makes sense that the first places selling Asian street food were opened there.
Tiny supermarkets of narrow streets in the old town are selling various handmade pastries, sweets and snacks. Indian street food is the most popular among them. Several special selling points are already working at the seafront promenade. However traditional Indian food that is served there remains an exotic one, it is fully adapted to European taste. Not anyone can manage to eat it as it is. You can’t say anything about its taste except it’s terribly hot and the next few minutes you are busy crying (literally). Indian food cooked in Limassol will be significantly milder but of course far from authentic.
The visitors of these cafes are mostly Indians…and I. Cypriots are conservative and prefer souvlaki, tourists have enough exotic in other places; very little attention is paid to the Indian street food. Well, their loss. Indian food is delicious, quite healthy and above all very cheap.
The best restaurant of this kind is “Kalimera India”. It is located on the seafront promenade where it meets Anexartisias Street of old Limassol. You probably can’t find it in Google Maps because it’s a small one. When you are staying back to the sea on the crossroads of seafront promenade and Anexartisias Street, you need to take about twenty steps to the left to reach it.
The menu is clear as a mud-spattered windscreen. The best thing you can do is to watch what a regular near you is eating and say “I’ll have the same” with all the confidence you have.
“Kalimera India” is a really nice place; I used to have a lunch here once a week. Samosa pastry graved with hot chickpea sauce is the best dish for my liking. They also have a wonderful tea, which is too sweet by the way. Big lunch for two (including drinks) will cost you just 10 Euros. That is very cheap taking into account the average prices around the city. And now let me tell you a little secret. If you have been in Asia at least once, you know that everyone in this country is selling everything you can imagine on every corner. It’s about mentality, you know.
Obviously, this kind of trading is forbidden in Cyprus and they can’t do it the same way they do it in their homeland. In theory. Practically it works very well. All you need is to be careful.
If you want to taste some super exotic Asian food, you need to come to the seafront promenade on Sunday and observe the area. As a rule most of the Asian people work a lot and Sunday is the only day off they have. That’s why Limassol seafront promenade looks more Manila or Jakarta like on Sundays. You will definitely notice at least one Asian woman with a bunch of bags who stops here and there chatting with different people of the same nationality. She is the one you are looking for.
These women never offer anything to Europeans afraid of having troubles with the police, but if you will take the initiative, they won’t refuse to sell you some exotic yum.
Kiosks Selling Corn
This kind of street food is a special love of the locals, made with unique flavour — it is not cooked or grilled but charcoal roasted corn! You may see old Cypriots selling it on the seafront promenade. And only there. The cost of one ear is about two Euros.
Honestly I can’t recommend you a specific place to buy it because I’m perfectly indifferent to this kind of street food. I’m leaving this investigation up to you.
Food trucks are very common street food cafes for commuter town and suburbs of Limassol. They could be found along the roads and sell classical fast food like burgers and hotdogs.
Food trucks are quite popular among the locals, but the quality of food leaves much to be desired to my opinion. The burgers are often worse than those in McDonalds. However that one is also not a good measure of the quality and taste.
Christmas Street Food
This kind of street food obviously could be found only one month a year and only at two specific places: on the square in Old Port and on the main street of Limassol.
On the first place Christmas street food is presented as roasted chestnuts and tiny bagels that are made right here and now and ready in two minutes. Roasted chestnuts need no introduction. It’s one of the best ideas to take these treats with you for a walk through the city to feel Christmas spirit. The bagels left me unimpressed: greasy and not super yummy.
Well, the street food in Limassol does not shine by diversity comparing to other big cities in Europe. The amount of the places and variety of their menus is quite poor. However we are witnessing trends towards their growth. Street food cafes are not too many, but not too few. It is not a problem to find something cheap and tasty if desired.