Food is the glue of Cypriot society. In Spain they are called tapas, in English they are referred to as small plates, but in Cyprus it is all about the meze. Cypriot meze is fundamentally linked to the island’s culture. Family time is first and foremost. Meals are better when shared among loved ones.
Meze plates vary year round depending on what is in season, but the basic dishes include: village salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, parsley, cucumber and feta cheese), dips (tzatziki, hummus and melitzanosalata), souvlaki (skewered grilled meats), whole fried fish and hearty stews. Meze is the equivalent of Cypriot soul food.
Whether you’re a history buff, adventure junkie or a foodie, Cyprus has plenty of surprises in store for you. It is a picturesque island dotted with Byzantine monuments, archaeological treasures and charming rural villages. The culture is friendly and the food is heavenly. Seriously, what are you waiting for?
Check out our Guide to Classic and Traditional Greek Foods
Located in an antique three-story mansion, this restaurant is Cypriot fine dining at its best. An ethereally decorated dining room contrasts nicely with the antique farming tools adorning the walls. The restaurant features a subterranean wine cellar of the highest quality — more than 2,000 bottles in total! Here is where the island’s oldest Commandaria (Cypriot dessert wine) was discovered. Though now reduced to dark ash, the discovery is of particular interest to wine enthusiasts and Cypriot historians.
Also on the property is a pottery studio where lumps of wet clay are spun into useful objects that echo Kornos’ rich pottery-making heritage. An adjacent shop displays pieces of several sizes. The food at Archontiko Papadopoulou is made with super fresh ingredients such as free-range chicken, seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs. Hearty stews are baked in traditional ceramic cookware. Ask your server for a wine recommendation and enjoy the unique atmosphere this restaurant offers. A visit to Archontiko Papadopoulou is a fantastic way to soak up some local culture with a memorable meal.
Recommendations: Baby lamb with fresh herbs, oven-baked Ttavas ~ Dishes €15 -22 ~ Open Tuesday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. ~ Reservations required
This taverna, which is located steps from Agios Lazaros Church, serves traditional Cypriot meze and plenty of gritty charm. Named after the owner’s love of turtles (there are sea turtle shells hanging on the walls), it is a spot where locals and tourists can kick back and relax. Weekends bring live folk music to this quirky restaurant. The ensemble is comprised of two middle-aged men playing an accordion and a guitar, with a third belting out hauntingly beautiful tunes. Their serenades make for an unforgettable evening.
The Black Turtle is a family-owned establishment that prides itself on no-fuss, hearty dishes. In fact, there is no menu. You get what they make, and you will like it. Mr. Savva, the owner, recommends you come in around 10 p.m. on a Saturday night to catch the show, but remember to reserve your table in advance. You’ll be dreaming of their sheftalies (sausage meatballs) for years to come. This is one of Larnaka’s best-hidden secrets.
Recommendations: Sheftalies, daily meze ~ Dishes ~ Open Friday – Saturday
This family-owned beachside eatery specializes in seafood meze, just as it did 30 years ago. Kalamies can feed hoards of people at a time in the Santorini-inspired dining room or on the breezy terrace overlooking the ocean. Though on the pricy side, what you are getting is the freshest catch prepared the traditional Cypriot way. Whet your appetite with fresh toasted garlic bread and aromatic dips like their taramosalata and melitzanosalata.
Then move onto the main courses of fried whole fish and calamari. Be sure to wash all that goodness down with an ice cold KEO Beer. The ocean views and sultry island backdrop only elevate the gastronomic experience. This place is a must if in the Protaras area.
Recommendations: Fried calamari, lobster pasta, lava cake dessert ~ Dishes €15 -25 ~ Open daily 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Zygi is a fishing community that has long been heralded as having the island’s best seafood. Sure, many seaside towns have made this claim, but it is no coincidence that this small village supplies a significant portion of the island’s restaurants and supermarkets with fish. In recent years, Zygi, with its industrial surroundings, has managed to outshine some of its more attractive neighbors. Why? Because of the excellent food that is abundant here.
There are about 20 restaurants in Zygi, and Kathari Kardia Fish Tavern shines as a genuine slice of Cypriot pie. This is where the local fishermen come to eat. This is where your meal was probably swimming hours before it is served to you on a plate. This is where drinking a pitcher of house wine by yourself is completely normal. Owner Achilles and his family work hard days to deliver the freshest catch to their customers. Their efforts won’t go unnoticed once you have your first bite.
Recommendations: Fish of the day ~ Dishes €15 -25 ~ Open daily
For a quick bite to eat of homestyle food, head to Manolis Chrysilios in the heart of Larnaka. This quaint, casual eatery is just steps from the Agios Lazaros Church. Manolis, as you probably already gathered, is the owner. He began a career in food in 1964 when he started making sandwiches in another part of town. Twenty years and thousands of bread slices later, he moved his business to its current location.
It was then that he branched into preparing home-cooked meals like beef stew and lentils with rice. With a small kitchen and resistant focus for someone his age, he serves dozens of hungry local businessmen, students, tourists, and families each day. The food is affordable and pleasantly appetizing. Come straight from the beach if you like — this is informal dining at its best.
Recommendations: Okra with beef, lentils with rice, chicken with potatoes ~ Dishes €2.50 – 8 ~ Open daily
Το στέκι της παρέας translates into “the gang’s hangout.” With plenty of seating, live music on the weekends, generous portions and an energetic staff, this restaurant is the quintessential modern taverna. Vibrant custom murals and old photographs of Greek musicians adorn the walls to give the restaurant a unique, evocative vibe. You can just tell that the place gets rowdy on the weekends. And it’s not difficult to see why. There’s plenty of meat, beer and wine to feed the masses. Menu items include grilled meats and wines from Crete. Don’t be shy about trying to sing along with the band, and come with an appetite.
Recommendations: Pork souvlaki, Greek salad, fried zucchini, youvetsi (pork chunks with orzo pasta in a tomato based sauce), fried cheese with drizzled honey ~ Dishes €10 – 18 ~ Open Monday – Thursday 8 p.m. – 2 a.m. & Friday – Saturday 8 p.m. – 3 a.m.
For a genuine slice of Cypriot culture and cuisine, Voreas Tavern is not to be missed. This traditional tavern is tucked away in the village of Voroklini, which is sometimes written as Oroklini. The restaurant is situated in a 150-year-old village home, complete with stonewalls and rustic décor. Wooden tables, soft lighting and a menu of scrumptious meze make the atmosphere at Voreas intimate and unique.
As one of the area’s best-kept secrets (not so much anymore), Voreas has maintained a superb reputation among locals for having a magnificent array of traditional meze. The prices are reasonable and the food quality is excellent, which makes the drive to Voroklini well worth it if you want to fill your belly with the finest cuisine in the region. Do order a pitcher of house wine with your dinner to wash down all the goodness.
Recommendations: Daily meze of salad, vegetables, souvlaki and assorted spreads ~ Prices €17-23 per person ~ Closed Sundays ~ Dinner reservations required for Saturday night
This charismatic taverna sits just minutes from Finikoudes Beach and the Medieval Castle. With zesty salads and flavorful dishes, the menu is as soul food as Greek cuisine gets. Management makes sure that everything comes out of his kitchen hot and seasoned to perfection. The restaurant is close to many of Larnaka’s attractions, which makes it ideal for lunch, dinner or takeout. It is a casual, family-friendly place donning iconic blue and white island décor. Portions are generous. Grab a table on the terrace for ocean views while you dine.
Recommendations: Eggplant stuffed with beef and cheese, pork souvlaki, grilled halloumi cheese ~ Open daily
Along the southern stretch of Pigiale Pasa, there are dozens of fish tavernas, and choosing one can be a daunting task. Let us take the guesswork out of it and recommend Zephyros Beach Tavern as the best one on the block. Here, seafood meze flies out of the kitchen at a steady pace to feed the masses that gather here each evening.
Families, local business owners and tourists dine as the waiters frantically scurry to and from the back with heaping plates of seafood. If you believe that the locals know best, then you have found the right place. Quality ingredients and prompt, professional service make a meal at Zephyros Beach Tavern worthwhile. To avoid the crowd, come for Sunday dinner.
Recommendations: fish meze ~ Dishes €7 – 15 ~ Open daily ~ Dinner reservations required for Saturday night
Do you have any restaurants in Larnaka that you recommend? Leave us a comment below!