While visiting Volos, the city of the Argonauts, you will definitely pass by a tsipouro taverna (tsipourádiko and, in plural, tsipourádika) as they are dispersed in every nook and cranny: almost 600 (!) of them bear the gastronomic stamp of the city and provide people with a favourite meeting point; that is the unrivalled landmark of Volos.
A traditional habit
The process by which tsipouradika came to be enjoyed dates back a long way, to the 19th century. They were born out of a need for workers to have a place to ‘hangout’ near their work, as at lunchtime they could not go back to their neighbourhoods.
So, small restaurants sprang up, serving simple meals at reasonable prices, accompanied by pure tsipouro (pomace brandy) originally coming form Tyrnavos and the villages of Pelion, and served in thimbles! These first tavernas became places where ordinary, open-hearted people could get together, thereby creating the appropriate culture. Later these gatherings were joined by refugees, who were often not customers but shop-owners, as the Asia Minor cuisine blended well with local dishes.
Those carrying on this tradition today have preserved the spirit and the atmosphere of the original tavernas. The mood is relaxed and people are often treated to food or drinks. Groups of friends usually join up and strangers find themselves singing together in impromptu choirs. The distinctive little bottles of tsipouro are served at the tables by the dozen to accompany delicious dishes. The atmosphere is unbeatable, defining the entire life of the city, as tsipouradika are open from early in the morning until late at night.
For lunch or dinner, in the afternoon or evening, the tsipouradika are what a pub would be in England, or a bistrot in France. What really make the difference are the grills, the frying pans, and the saucepans that indefatigably make delicious meze, ranging from fresh fish (sardines, picarels, red mullets, anchovies, dusky groupers, bonitos and swordfish) to shellfish and seafood in general. To round off your palate’s party, here come fried shrimps on tomatoe sauce and feta cheese, stuffed squids, octopuses on vinegar, grilled feta cheese, steamed mussels, baked potatoes, and, of course, fresh salads.
Picture people getting together and having fun, while tasting all these mouth-watering dishes and having tsipouro, and you’ll have already started your sightseeing in the city of Volos. But then again, why not actually visit it?