Empty buildings look rather forlorn. It is a sad sight in any town to see a vacant lot. One of the most common ways of filling up that empty space is to open an eaterie. Dining out is a favorite past time of Greeks, and there are places to suit everyone's pockets in Hania. Quite a few new places have opened around the town, but in these economically critical times, opening a restaurant is almost like investing in the stock exchange. Ultimately, it's all about location.
I was intrigued when a friend suggested the famous 'Bakaliarakia' restaurant in Plaka as a rendezvous when I was last in Athens. Is that all it serves, I wondered, bakaliaros? Indeed, the menu is limited, but that's the beauty of the place. Like the famous kebab houses in Monastiraki, you can be sure that everyone is eating tasty fresh food economically and democratically; the limited menu means everyone is eating the same food. But it wasn't my lucky day that day; the restaurant was closed, and it didn't look as though it was going to open for a while. So when I spotted this new eaterie in Hania, I felt as though I was being given a second chance. The menu is posted on the window, and it is indeed simple and traditional. Maybe it would be more enticing if it really were an old traditional, like the mayeiria in the Agora of Hania. Bakaliarakia opened about two months ago. It's an indoor restaurant, located about two blocks away from the beautiful romantic old Venetian port of Hania, where all the urban diners will be going to, for the next few months, to spend the warm evenings... Location, location, location.
... something new...
Everything about this place sends out a message of youth; it’s out with the old, and in with the new. The potted urns are impressive, the décor modern, the colours bright, the atmosphere chic. The term bistro is synonymous with French cuisine and tasty food. Mezzo Mezzo café bistro is located on the very outskirts of the town, at the corner of a congested one-way road with traffic lights, which are reflected (along with a ‘STOP’ sign) in the window of the café. The stores around this hip-looking joint with outside seating are a kitchen-bathroom tile shop and a few others selling buiding materials. A huge wedding and baptism boutique lies on the opposite side of the road. Otherwise, all is still in this residential area where most people drive rather than walk… Location, location, location.
... something borrowed...
The falafel diner has been in Hania longer than I have. Treated as somewhat of an oddity in the beginning, it now boasts indoor and outdoor seating, and is open all year round. Judging from the motorcycle by the pavement, it is even doing deliveries. Once it caught on, the old-fashioned hand-painted sign was axed in favour of the plastic-fantastic signage of modern times. Located across the road from the town stadium near some of the most populated high schools of Hania, in an old neo-classically designed house on the east side of town which was associated with the former Turkish settlement of the town up until the 19th century (there are two minarets close by to it), it’s become a popular snack bar, serving a mixture of Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine. The customers come from all sectors; it’s especially popular with the many economic migrants of the town who live in the neighbourhoods surrounding it. Location, location, location.
... and something blue.
In mid to late May, the beaches of Hania always fill up with the sun-starved European tourists, who come and give their body an early tan. Dining peacefully and undisturbed in a shady spot by the sea under the clear blue Mediterranean sky is an experience that cannot be compared to the 'hautest' cuisine of the best chefs in the world. There are two beach cafes here (one is slightly hidden among the trees in the background), and business is guaranteed, no matter what the state of the economy. Location, location, location.
And if you can’t afford even that or prefer something more 'bas-class', you can stock up on a picnic lunch from the supermarket just up the road and sit on a towel under a tamarisk tree.