Thessaloniki: beyond the city's walls at Toixo Toixo
I’ll admit it: Toixo Toixo, is a taverna of nostalgia for me. It’s one of the first tavernas I went to in the city on my own, recommended to me by a colleague. It was October 1, my friend and I tried feta wrapped in filo for the first time, we were hooked on Greek food from then on. Now, a year later, I returned, the day cooler and more grey, but still to sit on the patio on a Sunday afternoon.
Beyond the city walls, from which the taverna draws its name — toixo means wall — Toixo Toixo is open all day, from morning coffee to late night cocktail. In between, at least on the weekends, the patio and interior are full of diners, kids running from the grassy area across the street back to the table, parents talking with friends. It’s loud, and bustling, in the way that family gatherings are.
The previous visit, my friend and I ordered the borek with pastourma, the tomato fritters, and feta melt, or feta wrapped in filo, fried, then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. This, plus some rosé. I remember them all being delicious, though again, it might be the taste of nostalgia.
This time, though, I can say the food was delicious, as it is still fresh in my taste memory. The island salad with sundried tomatoes, croutons, cucumbers, and xynomizithra cheese was a light foil to some of the heavier dishes, and the croutons absorbed the dressing, softening their crunch. The aubergine salad was chunky with red peppers and feta. The aubergine itself was smoky and soft, but not overcooked, as some are. This one has body.
Our cheese of choice, aside from those in the salads, was the kunefe. Kunefe, a pastry made with kadaifi, is cooked in a small pan so it crisps, and the cheese, mild and white, melts between the two layers of the wisps of kadaifi. Served in quarters, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pistachios, the crisped pastry is reminiscent of a grilled cheese sandwich, each wisp of pastry a tiny crunch. This, a contrast to the beef tongue, tender and flavorful, served alongside raw white onions. Its essence, the juices left on the plate, were soaked up in a swipe of bread and sprinkle of salt. Alongside all of this was a pitcher of Malagouzia.
Situated away from the crowds along Egnatia or Tsmiski, Toixo Toixo still bustles, but in a convivial way. It’s the place you take a newcomer for their first meal in Thessaloniki. It’s the place where you remember what it is you loved so much about Greek food from the beginning.