22 Xanthoudidou Street
Rethymnon , Crete
Tel: 30 28310 58250
This restaurant in the courtyard garden of a restored Venetian mansion, now a hotel, has a 500-year-old wine cellar housing 460 labels, and is a must-dine experience for the ambience alone. The food is worthy of the setting, with authentic Cretan dishes prepared with local ingredients. The mountain goat with thyme and honey, for instance, is a popular variation on a dish owner Katerina Xekalou's mother used to make. Authentic Cretan does not necessarily come cheap, though, so be prepared to spend your euros as if they were some lesser currency, such as dollars.
Open daily 1 pm to 12:30 am.
Lato Boutique Hotel
15 Epimenidou Street
Iraklio , Crete
Tel: 30 2810 334 959
The decor of this Iraklio restaurant is as bold as the recent renovation of the hotel that houses it, the urban-boutiquestyle Lato. The restaurant's modernistic design, dominated by black and silver geometric shapes, is carried right through to the place settings and reflects much of the look throughout the hotel. The effect can be a little unsettling, as if you were having an in-flight meal on Spaceship Crete. But the food, from red pepper soup to popcorn goat-cheese truffles, is creative enough to overcome thatand help justify the astronomical prices.
Elounda Peninsula All-Suite Hotel
Elounda , Crete
Tel: 30 28410 68250
Unless your heart goes pop for fried calamari, it's surprisingly hard to find a good seafood restaurant in Greece. The Calypso, at the Elounda Peninsula All-Suite Hotel, is an exception, however. It is overseen by Michelin two-star chef Jacques Le Divellec, one of the contemporary masters at finessing a fish, and run by executive chef Jean-Charles Métayer, one of the rising stars of that art. Try the marinated crawfish, perhaps, or the mullet stewed with rosemary, both stylish presentations that reflect the chefs' French training.
Open daily 8:30 to 10:30 pm.
Elounda , Crete
Tel: 30 28410 41230
Except for its name, which comes from the 1977 BBC television series, Who Pays the Ferryman?, in which it played a role, Ferryman is what most visitors imagine a Greek taverna to be. Perhaps the best of a string of similar open-air restaurants along the Elounda waterfront, it offers up the expected dishestzatziki, Greek salad, calamari, grilled lambwith the expected animated solicitude of your waiter, who'll top off your glass with the house white and lie about the excellent pronunciation of your Greek.
Open daily noon to 4 pm and 6:30 to 11 pm.
Chania , Crete
Tel: 30 28210 64215
Talk about having a history! This venerable eatery, in the same family since 1922, is where Anthony Quinn learned the sirtaki, the dance that produced one of the most memorable scenes in the 1964 film Zorba the Greek. And the food, said to be good in Quinn's day, remains so. Chef George Leontaras's menu selections range across the Mediterranean and beyond, but most interesting are the traditional Cretan dishes, such as snails in tomato sauce, or phyllo pockets stuffed with fennel and wild greens. Nykterida is in Korakies, a few miles outside of Chania, but nobody seems to mind the drive, especially because the view from the dining room, overlooking Souda Bay, is so romantic at night that you just want to get up and dance the sirtaki.
Opens Mondays through Saturdays at 6 pm.
Agios Titos Square
Iraklio , Crete
Tel: 30 2810 346 028
Breakfast place in the morning and jazz club late at night, with lunch and dinner served in between, this former ice factory is one of the hippest gathering places in town, and one of the most oddly decorated. For one thing, there's graffiti on the wall that was written by Nazis when they occupied Iraklio during World War II. It reads, "God save us from storm and wind and slow workmates." For another thing, the bathroom, which has a fountain in the middle of it, looks like the work of ceramic artists gone wild. None of this is surprising, considering that the owner is an artist herself. If you are just here to nibble, as many are, try the galatopita, or milk pie.
Open daily 9 am to 1 pm.
Chania , Crete
Tel: 30 28210 96080
Plenty of restaurants in Chania will take you to the cleaners, but in only one, Tamam, can you eat, quite reasonably, in what was once a Turkish bathhouse. The menu is eclectic Mediterranean, but a favorite dish is the Meat Pie Tamam, a mix of chopped lamb, cheese, and spices, cinnamon and spearmint notable among them, baked in a thin crust of the handmade phyllo dough for which Crete is known. Perhaps reminiscent of its origins, Tamam's interior can get steamy on the hottest of summer days, so on those occasions opt for one of the few outside tables, against the stone wall bordering Zambeliou, a narrow, busy alleyway where you must be prepared to protect your wine bottle from the extended elbows of pedestrians.
Open daily noon to midnight, January through November.