If you’re looking for a dive taverna that will take you back in time and leave you wanting more of that authentic Greek food, you have to get to Zarkadoulas in Nikea. Succulent grilled crab served in a traditional setting and a cosy neighbourhood vibe for the perfect Sunday lunch in the sun.
It’s a balmy Sunday noon as we’re walking around the city when the idea hits me. Let’s try Kavourakia I’m thinking, which is the nickname of this infamous taverna in Nikea, before my partner in crime picks up the phone to ask for a table only to get a negative response. Regardless, I’m prompting us to venture down to Nikea, powering through and aiming at becoming a live problem for them.
As we reach the homey taverna in this rather residential neighbourhood we ask again for a table and still we get a negative response. After a bit of nego, we promise to keep it tight so we take one of the tables outside in the sun for a window of an hour or so. And we pat ourselves on the back for being forceful, time and time again.
Crowds are still not in as it’s still just after 13:00, but the waiter promptly starts bringing out the dishes towards our table. It’s still early spring but the tomato salad looks gorgeous red, sprinkled with a tad of oregano. Alongside it, we order some marinated anchovies that are drenched in olive oil, garlic and some carrot zest – slightly different than the norm but super tasty!
Golden and crisp hand-cut french fries also arrive and are devoured at once. It’s those kind that are crisp on the outside but with enough meat on the inside, rounded and thinly cut – what a delight! Together with some spread we dip onto the delicious tarama spread whilst washing it down with some aged tsipouro. A perfect Sunday afternoon, even as the main course has not arrived yet.
In a mater of minutes, the succulent grilled crabs also arrive which are cut in pieces, perfect for sucking in, bear hands and all. Perfect temperature, moist and juicy enough on the inside making for a delicious main. As we work our way through them, the waiter also brings a generous portion of fried red mullets that are part of the day’s catch. And they are indeed super fresh and super delicious too.
You see Grigoris Zarkdoulas, the grandfather, first opened this joint in 1983 as a neighbourhood café and then as an ouzo joint. As of 2000, they started featuring the infamous crabs that they bring all the way from the Atlantic on a special order for them. So, chances are that a little over 40 years later, they know a thing or two about hospitality and traditional taverna treats.