As much as we enjoyed Rhodes, we had been kind of underwhelmed at the food we'd had. It's the tourist trade that brings in the money, I get it. It wasn't until the end of our stay on Rhodes that we found a place, a humble taverna in the Old Town, just a block or so off the main tourist track, named Taverna Kostas.
You walk in and it looks like a simple little shop.
The first time we visited, we peeked in the front and had our doubts, but the older gentleman sitting at the table peeling garlic, stood up and warmly greeted us...."welcome, welcome....come in!" And we couldn't turn back. This was Kostas, whom we loved.......warm and friendly, with a gentle demeanor.
We were led to a much brighter and nicer dining area at the rear of the restaurant.
There were no other workers in the place.........everything was done by one man....and done with great joy.
When we mentioned how much we loved the olive oil he served, Kostas, smiled and said he got it from one of his relatives.....
Then proceeded to show on the standard issue Rhodes Taverna paper tablecloth, cum map where he got the olive oil from.
When a larger party came in, we noticed they set the table themselves, putting on the tablecloth and getting water.........as they conversed with Kostas, it became clear that they were regular visitors who came to Rhodes every year and ate here....they knew the drill.
The next night, after walking past several places, we decided to head back to Kostas. After walking in, we set our own table, which just delighted Kostas! "Good, good....thank you....you are now family!"
The item the Missus enjoyed the most were the Gigantes Plaki.
And while some of the other dishes were less memorable, none of them were bad at all.
Of all the meals we had on Rhodes, it was this humble taverna that we enjoyed the most. On another funny note, one of the restaurant owners of a place in Rhodes I posted on has sent me a couple of emails ordering me to delete my post or be slapped with a law suit....really? C'mon, get serious. Just kind of tells you about the folks who run that place.....
And then you have Taverna Kostas. A little place on a side street with well priced, unpretentious, honest food.... and one heck of a nice owner.
After having our (first) lunch at Mavrikos in Lindos, we backtracked and then took a side road. Our destination, the beautiful coast and the quiet village of Stegna.
Compared to Lindos and Rhodes Town, this was a peaceful, relaxing piece of paradise.
At the end of the road was a Taverna that Vassos, from the Saint Michel recommended to us named Antonis.
There's a ton of charm and the folks here are very friendly. However, we really found the food to be bland, and not prepared well. It was also our most expensive meal on Rhodes at over 70 Euros.
The Octopus was just grilled to death and rubbery.
The fish was not seasoned, not grilled very well......and cost us 50 Euros to boot.
It was really weird, like the grill wasn't hot enough, the skin of the fish like rubber...... such a beautiful fish....ruined.
We were finding that getting a nice meal on Rhodes was kind of tough......
Still, it was a nice, very relaxing change of pace.
Antonis Stegna, Rhodes, Greece
We drive back to Rhodes Town and returned our rental car. As evening got closer, the cruise ships left, and Rhodes Town again became quiet.
We took a walk up and down the back streets of Rhodes Town, away from the main tourist sites....where the residents of Old Town lived.
We'd had two lunches and decided on just chilling. We stopped by one of the little shops and bought a bottle of wine......Chris had given me a list of nice drinking wines to try. We also saw some stuff being stocked on the shelves of the little market and the Missus was thrilled. It was one of Her favorite things from our time in Crete......Cretan Rusk (twice baked bread). We also brought some cheese. Funny, we even brought back some rusk all the way from Rhodes....and it was still good.
We settled in on the patio of our room, which we called "the penthouse", since it was situated on the roof of the Saint Michel....we had the whole place to ourselves.
As the sun started to set, we could tell it was going to be a great one.....
One of the most beautiful I've ever seen....and I've seen my share.
Maybe we'd been a bit underwhelmed by the food on Rhodes, but man.......this was worth it all. A priceless sunset, which just set everything right.
We got to sleep early.......we had a boat to catch the next morning.
Much like we did in Crete, since Rhodes was a rather large island, we decided to rent a car. After manuevering the vehicle out of the Old Town we headed off Southeast. Our destination? The town of Lindos, birthplace of Charis who built the Colossus of Rhodes. I had read that Lindos was quite unique and it was easy to see why, even from a distance.
Remember the old joke about never being able to find a location whenever someone says "you can't miss it".....well, in this case it's true. You really can't miss this place. Towering over the town of about 1,000 is the Acropolis of Lindos.
It becomes obvious, even at a glance, why Lindos was one of the most important cities on the island in ancient times. Both the Acropolis, built on a rock towering almost 400 feet over the village and the rather calm natural harbor, along with its location on the Eastern side of the island made it a perfect location for trade with people like the Phoenicians.
We decided to stop in Lindos and grab our first lunch. I found osme parking a bit outside of town and we walked into the village.
The village itself is tourist central. Lindos is the second most popular tourist destination on the island. While walking along the small streets and alleyways, past the white washed houses, you'll undoubtedly come across packs of donkeys ferrying tourists up to the Acropolis. I really felt sorry for the poor donkeys....I saw several carrying really large tourists up the hill.
I actually thought I'd soon be trudging up that hill. But no, much like what happened with saying "no to Knossos", the Missus decided that we'd seen enough........
As we headed toward the central square, the bell tower of the Church of Assumption squarely in sight, the Missus pulled into a jewelry shop. Much like Chania, the Missus decided that She wanted some ear rings....I guess we were developing our own traditions.
So while the young man in the shop and I discussed recycling, Greece, and what was even more funny; the 80's music blaring through the shop (this kid was in his early 20's) "I love 80's, the best music, they don't make music like this anymore"...sounds like something I'd say, the Missus found a pair of ear rings She wanted.
Mission accomplished, a tradition lives on.....
Talking about 30 year old music really made me hungry so we asked directions to a restaurant that had been recommended to us; Mavrikos.
Located in the really busy bus and taxi stop, we were told that Mavrikos was once considered on of the best restaurants in Greece.
The place looked really nice, white tablecloths and all. The customers were undoubtedly tourists. The menu spanned everything from Spaghetti Bolognese to Tabbouli to more interesting stuff like youvesti with beef (a traditional beef stew).
I really felt for the staff here, customers wanting pizza and burgers, folks walking in the door using the restrooms....
We kept it simple and light, there were plans for a second lunch in the works.
The Missus, like She always does ordered the horta, one of Her favorite things in the world.
Which was cooked to death as it always is. The flavor was pretty good, almost like collards.
And a routine Greek Salad.
This version had capers which added a nice briney touch.
Pretty boring, eh? I was famished and decided to order the Slow Cooked Belly of Pork in Grape Syrup.
This was an interesting dish. You could tell that a lot of this had been prepped way ahead of time and quickly put together for service. The rice was really bad. If undercooked rice was a crime, the person who made this should get the death penalty. The pork belly, though it was only lukewarm, was decent, not overcooked and mushy, perhaps a bit under what I'd appreciate, but still full of pork flavor. The grape sauce made the dish, slightly sweet and fruity, with a touch of astringency and acid, it balanced out the fattiness of the pork. Of course, as with most places in Europe, a pig tastes like a pig. Definitely not cheap at almost 16 Euros, but better than just about everything I'd had in Rhodes so far.
We headed back to the car, the Missus smiling at Her bounty, me trying to remember what the car looked like.........
I still remember that conversation with the young man in the shop......there were a few songs before this one, but following it, I had to comment on the 80's music. I remember being mesmerized by the video when it first came out. It's still a favorite of mine.
I know I'm old.........but I still love this video. If you've ever wondered about the girl in the video, there's more here.
We'd been enjoying our time in Rhodes Town, ut had yet to experience what I'd call a good, solid meal. For dinner we decided to head past the Hora, now quiet after the tourists and day trippers had left and head out to the area called the "New Market".
Since things had been fairly plus/minus in he Old Town, we decided to try our luck out here. The New Agora seemed a bit touristy, full of fast food and tourist fare. But a little bistro-ish ouzerie named Indigo caught our eye.
We found the super bright and loud colors a bit gaudy...and yet charming in its own way. It was so somewhat tacky that it looked quaint and interesting.
The prices weren't bad and this place just looked so different from the others that we had to stop here.
We started with a favorite of the Missus; the Fava Skordalia.
The flavor was right on, nice and beany, perfect amount of salt and seasoning. The texture however, was kind of weird and glue-like.
The Missus went with what seemed like a simple roasted eggplant salad. It turned out to be quite a bit more than that.
This was one of the more memorable dishes we had on the trip. We loved the contrasting textures, the soft roasted eggplant, with the crisp fried filo dough and crunch greens. The addition of the crisp fried "noodles" would have usually thrown us off, but in this case it worked fine. The salty feta, offset with the acid in the dressing and tomatoes.
I ordered the grilled calamari.
I loved the vegetables which were nicely seasoned and had a good combination of tangy-sweet-salty flavors. The calamari had a nice grilled flavor, but was on the tough side.
Overall, this was decent meal, perhaps the best we'd had on Rhodes to date.
Indigo New Market 105 Rhodes Town, Greece
As we walked back to our room, we couldn't help but be impressed with the imposing and grand walls of the "Old Town" at sunset.
And yet, I was still in the dark with regards to the food here......
Energized after a cup of espresso, we decided to take a walk outside the imposing wall of the old town. The walk took us through the area called the "New Town". During Ottoman rule, the Greeks who didn't leave with the Knights of St. John were not allowed to live within the city walls, this is where the New Town sprouted. It looks like a fairly modern European town, skinny streets, lots of shops, banks, etc.
Still, there's quite a bit to see out here. This is the Mourad Reis Mosque and the old Turkish Cemetery,
There's an area called the New Agora, which I'll cover in another post. There's also Mandraki Harbor.
The passage into the harbor is guarded by the Tower of Saint Nicholas and the "Platoni", bronze statues of a Platoni deer stag and doe.
We walked past the Temple of Virgin Mary's Annuciation.....
Past the commercial harbor and through the massive Thalassini Gate.
It's quite an imposing sight. It looks so imposing, that it's hard to imagine the old town being over-run and conquered.
By this time, the bright Mediterranean sun was getting to me and I was getting hungry. We decided to try out a place that Chris, from the Hotel Saint Michel recommended to us called Alexis 4 Seasons.
There's indoor seating on the second floor and a nice peaceful courtyard in the rear. Which seemed like a great place to escape all the noise and bustle of the street outside.
The menu was seafood based which made us happy......
We settled in with our wine and bread to get off to a nice relaxing lunch.....
At which time a large party of Taiwanese tourists on a "tour" from a cruise ship came in. Loud, demanding, and argumentative, this party of 12 just killed the atmosphere. Our Server, a really funny guy, saw the look on our face, and told us, "do not worry, they want to eat as cheap and fast as possible, and be gone in 20 minutes!" The one amusing thing was that the kind of eccentric woman with the tripod and camera I described in my previous post was part of this group. Even with all these folks she knew, some of which were possibly her relatives; she still insisted on placing that dinky little tripod on the ground turning on the timer, running into position, assume a pose, then "click" the photo would be taken. She did this about 6 times during the meal....never once did she ask someone in her party to take a photo, no......she needed that tripod, even when asking others to take a photo with her! I guess she trusted that tripod more than anyone else! Still, this group had nothing on the Russian tour that pushed everyone aside to get to the front of the line in Cappadocia, nor the Koreans who walked in front of all the folks trying to take photos in Selcuk, or the worst, the Chinese tour who pushed their way to the front of the line at Saint Peter's Basilica, then tried to force their way past the guard at the metal detector. Then there was the whiney German tourist who demanded free drinks because the bus from Halong Bay back to Hanoi was taking longer than it should.
Things started with a fairly routine roasted pepper and eggplant dish.
Ditto the salad....
Then it got really interesting. I decided to order something called the "Deep Blue Plate", the description of which was "mix local shell food".
I'm so glad I ordered this. There was seaweed, of course, nice but nothing really special. Then there's the collection of various limpets, sea snails and such, some of which were really tasty; the flavor of the Mediterranean condensed into a single bite. Loved the various textures, some soft and buttery, other chewy like abalone. I looked at a piece.....and it looked like opihi and even tasted like a milder version of it. There were some very briney barnacles as well. By now the tour groups had indeed left, to the relief of the three tables of customers in the place. I realize that having tour groups keeps these places in business, but man, that was painful.
We love octopus around the Greek Islands and our Server recommended the grilled octopus and calamari with squid ink pasta.
The octopus was a bit more chewy than I prefer. Perhaps the fantastic stuff we had at Vasiliko in Chania has kind of ruined me. The calamari was excellent quite tender, with a nice smokey, grilled flavor. The pasta was meh, al dente, but under seasoned.
We also had the mussels with white wine.
The mussels were decent, it was perhaps a bit under-seasoned for my taste. These were small, but quite tender...there are time I prefer the smaller mussels because they tend to have more flavor, but this was like something I'd make at home.
There was one item on the menu that I delighted to see. I'd come to really enjoy Raki during our time in Crete. I saw it by what the rest of Greece calls it Tsikoudia. It was the perfect way to end my meal.
The meal was decent, but not outstanding. The service was nice, but at over 70 Euros (over $100 at that time) for lunch in Rhodes, I expected a bit more.
*** Nothing but a cup of coffee in this one. We'll have a new post with more food tomorrow.
Compared to the busy and buzzing late mornings and afternoons, the walled Old Town of Rhodes seemed quite tranquil and relaxed in the morning. The Mediterranean sun shone brightly on the streets even at 7 am! Busy Ippokratous Square seemed downright tranquil.
The Kastellania Fountain is one of the Old Town's landmark as is the usually packed Kastellania Stairs, which date back to 1507, which used to lead up to, duh, Kastellania Palace.
Walking around Rhodes Town during this time of day you're able to see the usual tourist filled town in a new light (no pun intended).
Walking within the rather formidable walls of the old town, you start understanding the history and importance of this medieval city, once the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The commercial and strategic location of Rhodes means a long and colorful history as well as the island was in turn ruled by the Greeks, Roman, Isaurians, Arabs, Genoese, Ottoman, Italians, finally back to the Greeks. None of these captured my imagination more than the Knights of St John and no walk created more drama for me than an early morning wander up the Street of the Knights. This was where the Knights lived, you can find the "Inn of France", the "Inn of Italy" and so on. The Knights were divided into eight "tongues" - Aragon, Auvergne, Castile, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Provence. Each had their role and a "gate" of the city for which they held responsibility.
The road originally led up from the harbour to the Palace of the Grand Masters, an impressive structure. You can almost imagine knights on horseback galloping out the gates.
It is so large that I had a hard time trying to fit it in a single photo. This castle like structure was built in the 14th century on the site of an ancient temple to the god Helios. This was where the Grand Master of the order of the Knight Hospitaller lived. When the Ottomans defeated the Knights it became a prison and storage for ammunition. This lead to the event called the "Great Gunpowder Explosion of 1856", when lightning triggered an explosion which basically demolished the structure. When the Italians took over Rhodes, they rebuilt the palace, which became a vacation residence for Mussolini. There's actually a plaque near the entrance with Mussolini on it....sort of "Mussolini slept here" I guess. I took a photo but it didn't come out.
The photo that did come out was of the rather grand stairway in the palace.
I was told that most of what is located in the "museum" does not reflect the "Knights", rather the mosaics and art were taken from Kos and were brought here by the Italians as was the antique furniture.
Still, the place is quite an impressive site.
So what happened to the Knight of St John after their defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks? Well, the Knights, badly outnumbered made a spirited defense, so it is thought that Suleiman the Magnificent, allowed them to ransom themselves and leave Rhodes. Where did they go? Well, take a look to the right and I'm sure you'll figure it out. This simple display also served as inspiration for one of the stops in our most recent vacation.
We left the palace and just a short walk down the street you can see one of the remnants of the Ottoman occupation.
The Suleyman Mosque. This was also where we first saw this rather eccentric tourist. She was a very thin Taiwanese woman, who looked to be in her mid forties. She carried this really dinky looking mini-tripod with a camera attached. Every few steps she'd place the tripod on the ground and click a button and run up the steps do a "pose" just before the camera and flash went off. A couple yards later....she'd do the same thing. The Missus and I walked past her just cracking up. We just had to get out of there, so we ducked out St George's gate. As we exited the Old Town we walked over the area that must have been the former moat. It had been replaced by a nice green area.
We wandered around the "New Town" a bit. Through some of the shops and markets, just getting a feel for the area. Man, I was running low on gas, so the Missus suggested we get a cup of espresso.
Not as good as Tunisia, but it did the trick. I was ready to head on back out in the sun drenched streets of Rhodes Town.
Trying to catch up on our travel posts. This one is from back in 2012.
I'm not sure why we.....though I think it was I, chose the island of Rhodes. When doing some research, I probably got caught up in Medieval, knights, Grand Masters, a walled city! A young boy's dream. It also seemed like a nice change of pace after Tunisia and Istanbul. All that history was a plus as well. Plus, the Missus loves the Greek Islands.
So we arrived on our flight from Istanbul, through Athens. We'd decided to catch the bus from the airport to Rhodes Town. However, one of the cab drivers...you gotta love Greek cab drivers, they are nuts, offered us a deal to split the fair with another couple. So we ended up catching the taxi. The couple got out at a resort south of Rhodes Town and the driver picked up a passenger outside the Old Town. From there we ended up at the cruise terminal dock, all the while listening to an animated conversation between the driver and the passenger in a language we didn't understand! As the driver dropped the guy off he glanced back and gave us a surprised look. He's been so engrossed in conversation that he forgot all about us! He laughed, shrugged, and told us, "sorry, politics you know...." He ended up taking us back up the road and dropping us off near Saint Catherine's Gate.....he pointed through the gate and said, "that way....." Well, it wasn't quite "that way...." Luckily, we had a map and it wasn't that long a walk as headed past the main square and tourist stops down the charming cobblestone back streets of the Old Town.
If your idea of the Greek Islands are those charming bright white with blue trimmed structures, Rhodes will be a surprise. Here it's brick and stone, a fortress, a moat.....
Eventually we ended up at a small square area and gingerly stepped over the snoring dogs.....
We really wanted to stay in the Old Town, within the walls of the medieval city, and the Hotel Saint Michel seemed to fit the bill. The building is over 700 years old, cozy, and while the rooms are nothing fancy, the place has character to spare.
Also, Chris and Vasso were so accommodating, really making us feel comfortable and at home.
We were lucky enough to get the room we call the "penthouse". It is located at the top of the steep stairs on the roof. While the room was rather small and the wifi really didn't work up here, the place was private, cozy, and had one really big bonus......
We had the entire upper deck area to ourselves. Both the door to the room and the door to the deck had locks...
We were to make great use of the deck over our stay......
We really enjoyed the location of the hotel, it was close to everything, but away from the tourist hustle and bustle.
Settled in, we headed out for dinner. Usually, we're really tired after arriving at a city for the first time. Rhodes really didn't tax us much. Still, we thought we'd take it easy and head to a restaurant I'd read about fairly close by, away from the tourist rush called Laganis.
The Missus loves the tin cups that house wine is served in, so we got the house red which was passable.
She also loves horta, the wild "mountain greens", often a type of chicory, so we ordered that as well.
This version wasn't cooked to death as we're used too. It also needed a good deal more seasoning, but was not bad overall. Sadly, this was the best dish of the meal.
Things went quickly downhill with the Fava Skordalia.
This lacked flavor as well, but even worse, the dip had an unpleasant gritty texture as well.
The beets were nice and sweet but on the hard side.
We were only comforted by the fact that we tend to not choose real well for our initial meal in new cities we visit. I was sure that tomorrow we'd fare much better.
After the meal, we decided to take a walk down the streets of this quieter part of Rhodes Town.
We eventually ended up at Ippokratous Square and the Castellania fountain which is the busiest tourist area of the Old Town, surrounded by shops and restaurants...and tourists of course. Since it was almost evening, most of the day-trippers had left or were in the process of leaving.
Soon, the folks from the cruise ships would be heading back and the place would become pretty quiet. After all the folks in resorts leave it looks like this.
Quite a contrast......
We headed back up the cobble stoned alleyway to the hotel, stopping at the little shop next door. Christos was more then happy to open our bottle of wine and provide some glasses for us. We sat on the patio and heard the horns of the two cruise ships heading out. Soon we toasted as the sun went down in the horizon.
It was a nice sunset, but a few days later we'd see what I can only call an amazing sunset on Rhodes. Things were sure to get better......
Here's a bunch of odds and ends and even some recent surprises.
An impulse buy form North Park Produce:
I've kinda stopped doing posts on markets and grocers, though perhaps I should do a few more. Though I shop at North Park Produce biweekly, I've starting taking a bit more time to really check things out. I've noticed some very interesting items and the weekend we got back from our trip I saw something that surprised me. I just had to buy it......
Yep...it's kuru patlican! Dried eggplant, one of items I mentioned in my last most recent post on Istanbul! I was quite surprised to see it, though I've been noticing more products from Turkey recently.
Now I've just got to figure out what to do with it.
North Park Produce 3551 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92104
An impulse buy from Awash Market:
We recently walked into Awash Market on El Cajon Boulevard. Folks there we really nice. We ended up buying a selection of Ethiopian Beer and Honey wine.
The guy behind the counter was quick to tell us that "honey wine is what Jesus made from water!" I was also told that they make their own honey wine as well. I'm sure we'll be eating there in the future. I really enjoyed Meta Beer, it has a honey finish, might even go well with baklava.....
Awash Market 2884 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92104
Molokhia from Nijiya? It's true:
One of the more interesting and delicious dishes we ate in Tunisia was served in a buffet. It was this black and somewhat viscous stew of beef. We were told it was made with dried molokhia. No one else was eating it....the Missus and I had seconds and then some. The Chef de Cuisine was so delighted he came to talk to us. It was made from dried molokhia, a type of corchorus and totally foreign to us. The chef told us that molokhia reflected the arab side of Tunisian cuisine.
So I was absolutely astounded when we dropped by Nijiya to grab some groceries and saw.......molokhia!
Not quite sure what I'm going to make....I'm open to suggestions! Man, Nijiya is full of surprises. Last year it was the fresh chanterelles, this year molokhia! I can only imagine what's next.
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
What we brought back from Rhodes:
You're going to laugh at this one........
I think I covered the Missus' love affair with the very dry, twice baked bread called rusk, which She just couldn't get enough of during our visit to Crete. During our stay on Rhodes, we decided to have a light dinner. There's a pretty good market within the city walls of Rhodes, but they had no bread. When we returned to our room I set things out on the private, not so little patio, which we had all to ourselves.
The Missus came back and told me the mini-mart had also sold out of bread. She then held up a bag....of rusk, telling me, "but they had this!" How convenient. Funny thing was, I really liked it. And it was from Crete as well.
At first I thought that perhaps it was a combination of the bottle of wine and the beautiful Rodos sunset.
But we bought most of the package of rusk back with us....and you know what? I really do like it...what can I say?
Lychee from Costco:
We went to Costco for our quarterly toilet paper shopping trip and I was surprised to see Lychee.
There was an open container so I checked it out...weight was good, it felt tender but not mushy, there was no space between the peel and the flesh, so it didn't seem frozen. Yeah, I know, first I'm petting my uni, now I'm feeling my lychee...what's next "dogs and cats living together"?
This was better than the stuff we've recently had from various Asian markets around San Diego. The Missus has been enjoying it with......a homage to Her, ahem, delusional Greek roots....Greek yogurt. She says it's quite good. I'll just let it go at that........
So, what interesting impulse buy have you made recently?