Chefs Tell Us Where To Find Killer Mediterranean Cuisine

We’re all supposed to be eating a Mediterranean diet and living the same healthy lives as the svelte, tanned people roaming the sun bleached streets of Greece and southern Italy, right? Pretty sure every health and beauty mag on earth tells readers they should be eating olive oil, fresh fruit and veg, and non refined grains every day and avoiding meat most of the time in order to be attractive. And while it’s not a bad approach to eating, it’s not as good as other Mediterranean foods — the sort that prompts people to spend money they don’t have on getting falafel delivered via Uber to their homes. No. When people want to grub on foods from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco, they want the good stuff. Bring on the lamb souvlaki and the roast chicken with preserved lemons and olives.

That’s the happy place chefs went to when we asked them to identify the best Mediterranean food out there. They mainly stuck to the northwestern part of the Mediterranean, but they did go for big flavors and classic preparations, so it evens out. The answers show that a good fish prepared in salt or grape leaves is going to keep a chef coming back for more. It may not be what the magazines are trying to get you to eat, but it’s delicious and satisfying. Read through the answers, consider what goodies from the Med tempt you, and dive head first into the comment section and let us know. Because sometimes, “Commenters Tell Us” rivals “Chefs Tell Us.”

OPA (San Francisco, CA)

Chef Porfirio Gomez — Executive Chef, Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails (Irvine, CA)

This place is the perfect corner spot for a quick lunch with tons of flavors. Whenever I am in Pacific Heights, I always stop and get the sardine olive salad. It’s truly the “essence of the sea,” and if that’s not your thing, they have plenty of other menu items to choose from that are all executed very well.

2424 Main Street Bar and Ristorante (Santa Monica, CA)

Chef Tomonori Takahashi — Founder and CEO, JINYA Ramen Bar (Los Angeles, CA)

This farm-to-table bistro does beautiful Italian/American food and they have a really great wine list to boot. I especially love the pastas here and the atmosphere is great as well.

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Cocktails and Conversation and of Course Carbonara

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Dizengoff (Miami, FL)

Chef Mike Pirolo — Chef and Owner, Macchialina

Dizengoff just opened up in Miami a few months ago, and I am already hooked. It is a fast casual concept where you can pick up a variety of hummus which is served with their fresh baked pita, Israeli salad & pickles. My personal favorite is the merguez which comes with lamb and pickled cabbage. It is the perfect balance between spicy and acidic. Don’t miss the shakshuka – only available on Sundays. It consists of North African baked eggs in a spicy tomato and pepper stew. Be sure to order a lemonanna, which is their refreshing frozen lemonade.

It’s not just the food that makes this place great, it has a great vibe with a 90’s hip hop playlist.

Byblos (Miami Beach, FL)

Chef Sean Brasel — Executive Chef and Co-owner, Meat Market Miami Beach (Miami Beach, FL)

For a great Mediterranean place I always go to Byblos in Miami Beach. The vibe of this spot transports you out of Miami and the food is phenomenal. I always order the lamb ribs and can’t leave without having one of the rices on the menus, which are packed with spices.

Nopi (London, England)

Chef Gio Osso — Chef and Owner, Virtú (Scottsdale, AZ)

Nopi in London. Yotam Ottolenghi is brilliant. His flavors as well as presentation are outstanding. If you can’t get out of the country then you should look into buying his cookbooks. You will salivate!

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Ready for service.. #nopi

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Pylos (New York, NY)

Chef Anne Thornton — Executive Chef, 33 Greenwich (New York, NY)

I’m obsessed with all Greek food. I love any opportunity to eat the classic combo of tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, feta, and fresh oregano. Salt baked branzino is also my go-to order, great for family meals and fun to share. I love the moussaka at Pylos in East Village.

Nicholas Restaurant (Portland, OR)

Chef José Chesa — Chef and Co-owner, 180 and Ataula (Portland, OR)

Nicholas restaurant in Portland I think is an institution. I love a warm freshly baked bread with their hummus and lamb or chicken kebab. They’re seasoning is on point, and it’s a great place for a good meal with the whole family.

Lucques (West Hollywood, CA)

Chef Julio Hawkins — Executive Chef, Fly-n-Fish Oyster Bar & Grill (Newport Beach, CA)

This place is a classic. I love to start off with the lamb merguez with eggplant and chickpeas. Another menu favorite is the grilled salmon wrapped grape leaves with green rice and feta. Solid, fresh & clean flavors.

Cleo (Hollywood, CA)

Chef Melissa Rosen — Chef and Co-owner, Locali Healthy Convenience (Hollywood, CA)

I love the food and the ambiance at Cleo in Hollywood on Vine. Their pita is heavenly accompanied with the hummus and babaganoush. The artichokes with olives and lemon from the wood-burning oven is one of my favorite appetizers. They also have one of my favorite salads in town which has watermelon with a pepita brittle. It’s both refreshing and satiating.

The Med (Boulder, CO)

Chef Nick Kayser — Executive Chef, Vesta (Denver, CO)

Short of traveling to the actual Mediterranean, for Mediterranean cuisine I find myself going again and again to The Med, in Boulder, CO, when I need my fix. This restaurant isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; instead, they focus on the execution of the food, and the chilled out, laid back environment is something craveable to me and the perfect backdrop for the elegantly created flavors of true Mediterranean cuisine. Simply grilled offerings, heavy presence of fresh lemon and oregano, and the simplicity of the place as a whole, always leaves me with the satiated, pleased feeling you get when you’ve had what you know is the best. Not the fanciest, certainly not the most expensive – just the best.

Meraki Bistro (Miami, FL)

Chef Santiago Gomez — Executive Chef, Cantina La Veinte (Miami, FL)

Meraki Bistro is one of the many hidden jewels in Downtown Miami. There, you will find one of the best and most authentic Greek restaurants in town. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you forget you’re in Miami, it transports you to Greece. I recommend that you order everything to share, that way you can try multiple dishes. My favorites include the tzatziki, hummus and the homemade gyro. They also have a great selection of Greek wines and beers.

Dizengoff (Philadelphia, PA)

Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli — Executive Chef, Glass & Vine (Miami, FL) and Owner/Chef, Eating House (Miami, FL)

The hummus at Michael Solomonov’s Dizengoff is insanely delicious. It’s basically equal parts tahini and chickpea, making it the perfect accompaniment to that freshly baked pita.

Bazaar by Jose Andres (Miami, FL)

Chef Raul A. Del Pozo — Executive Chef, Lightkeepers (Miami, FL)

When I think of Spanish done right, the first thing that comes to mind is Bazaar by Jose Andres in Miami, FL. The fresh and vibrant decor plays in well with the whimsical food that’s brought out throughout the evening. An incredible cocktail menu and a massive tapas menu make this heaven for a chef. Start off with the pan con tomate and you’ll find yourself reminiscing of Spain instantly. The Jose taco with Iberico ham and white sturgeon caviar is to die for. I could never leave this Spanish wonderland without having the Rossejat with shrimp.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro (Miami, FL)

Chef Alex Q. Becker — Executive Chef, Kuro (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

I’ve had some great meals at Mandolin Aegean Bistro down in Miami. They have a great patio area that is intimate and really makes you feel like you’re dining in the Mediterranean. They keep the menu classic and simple but they do it right. I like to get the lamb chops with orzo pilaf, kefte, and moussaka.

Can Coca (Fornells, Illes Balears, Spain)

Chef Oscar Cabezas — Executive Chef, Teleferic Barcelona (Walnut Creek, CA)

I was born in the Mediterranean; it is my homeland, and it is who gives pleasure to my kitchen. Mediterranean cuisine is a generic term and beyond its formal description, I have always understood it as a philosophy of life. Beyond knowing if a dish is Sicilian, Turkish or Catalan, Mediterraneans live to play, drink and eat. Menorca is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, for it has fought all the civilizations that dominated our sea. Can Coca in Fornells is my place on the island because it perfectly embodies all the philosophy of times, proximity, cuisine of character and natural mestizaje. Chef David de Coca and I were together at Arzak and we always spoke with longing for our fish and our sea. If you go there, eat a caldereta of lobster and you will understand why. I normally go in June.

Cleo (Hollywood, CA)

Chef Nathaniel Nguyen — Executive Chef and Co-owner, Jinny’s Pizzeria (Santa Ana, CA), Paloma’s Paletas (Orange County, CA), Rooster Republic (Santa Ana, CA) and Milk Man Ice Cream (Santa Ana, CA)

Cleo is my go-to for a sleek & sexy take on Mediterranean cuisine. The freshly baked laffa with the lebaneh & feta is addicting! And you have to get the lamb schawarma. The best part is there’s so many small bites & plates that it makes the dinner truly social, and you walk away trying so many different things!

Zaytoon (San Francisco, CA)

Chef Andrew Greene — Executive Chef, Duchess (Oakland, CA)

My favorite spot for a quick delicious bite of Mediterranean food is Zaytoon located on Valencia and 22nd street. Two brothers who are on their hustle and are doing it in this tiny spot, producing my favorite lamb shawarma in SF. They are quick, fresh and everything has great flavor and the meat is juicy and perfectly spiced.

Kokkari Estiatorio (San Francisco, CA)

Chef Yosuke Machida — Executive Chef, Chambers Eat & Drink (San Francisco, CA)

Kokkari Estiatorio, I don’t need explain this place, the reviews speak for themselves. Everyone needs to try them!