Siokou St. (at Ipsilantou)
Tel: 27520 22449
This small taverna dishes up traditional Greek fareand, in the evening, music. It's a favorite with locals, who come for the atmosphere as much as the food. In summer, the tables spill out onto the sidewalk. The reasonably priced menu has several vegetarian options. Credit cards are not accepted. Make a reservation on weekends or in the summer.
Tel: 27520 27704
Don't be put off by the drab decor inside this nautically themed restaurant. It beats the neighboring mediocre tourist eateries hands down. Spanking-fresh seafood draws knowledgeable localsif you can't decide what to order, ask if you can have what they'rehaving. Or try the specialty, midia saganaki, succulent mussels in tomato sauce, topped with cheese. Wash it all down with a carafe of the local wine; work it off with a stroll along the seafront promenade afterwards. Expect crowds on weekends.
Tel: 27210 41331
About two miles northeast of Kalamata center (follow Navarinou towards Verga, then the signs for Selitsa village)
While you browse the menu, nibble on paximadia, whole-wheat bread slices that are baked until they become hard rusks. (Traditionally served at a meal after a funeral, paximadia are also eaten year-round under happier circumstances, sometimes in a sweet version.) Selitsa's are scented with oregano and olive oil. Youvetsi, a baked pasta, meat, and tomato dish, is delicious, as is the spetsofai sausage and pepper casserole. A stream runs by the restaurant, and there's also a small castle next door, which is a bar in summer. The restaurant commands a gorgeous view of Kalamata and the Gulf of Messinia.
Town square Mavrovouni (about one mile south of Gythio)
Tel: 27330 22256
This pleasant little grill serves traditional Greek food using local produce: artichokes in spring, eggplant and tomatoes in summer. At any time of year, ask to visit the kitchen so the chef can show you what's good: He may gesture toward a pile of wild greens, or show you a refrigerator drawer filled with glistening fresh octopus (nearby Gythio, with its surrounding gulf, is the octopus capital of Greece). The offerings include several savory baked dishes, usually in a clay pot. You'll also find garlicky tzatziki and luscious, creamy taramasalata, the dip made with pink fish roe. Dinner only.
7 Spiliopoulou (near police station)
Tel: 26240 23570
The restaurant of the Hotel Praxitelous is renowned for its mezedes, or appetizers, many of which will delight vegetarians: try the zucchini fritters, the stuffed tomatoes, or the eggplant dip. The cooling tzatziki (a sauce made with creamy Greek yogurt along with cucumbers, dill, and garlic) is delicious. Order a pikilia (assortment), and in summer, eat it at one of the tables on the pedestrian-only street outside. In winter, sit indoors beside the fireplace.