Mezes, or mezedes, are commonly explained as the savory small plates that you might find yourself nibbling on along with an ouzo somewhere, but I first became aware of them on my second trip to Greece, in a Mykonos restaurant, where an assortment of them was being served as a sort of appetizer course. They were so fresh and good that it was tempting to ignore the rest of the menu and just keep ordering mezedes until we were full. But one of the large group of people we were eating with, an American who had just spent the previous year teaching school in Athens, warned us not to do that. It was considered rude in Greece, he explained, to eat mezedes in a restaurant without ordering a main course.
In an ouzerie, however, that’s precisely what you’re supposed to do, something that can make dinner in an ouzerie, sipping away at a carafe of ouzo and eating a series of small plates at a relaxed pace, highly enjoyable. The other way to enjoy mezedes, the much more common way, is either in a Greek restaurant, where many of the small plates that comprise mezedes will often make their way onto the first, or salad, section of the menu, or in the Greek home, where one or more plates will simply be laid on the table as part of the meal. Since I find multiple small plates to be fun only when I’m not the one cooking, my tendency when making a meal is to serve one or two mezedes as appetizers, or to simply incorporate one or more as part of the main or salad course.
However you choose to enjoy them, here are the ones that I like best.