Secrets of a Greek Grocery Store
Updated: Sep 25
Tourism may have taken a nosedive in Greece as just about everywhere else in Europe but one of the few sectors to have really taken off in the past several months is grocery stores. And now you can explore Greek gastronomy with the ease of a click.
While eating organic comes as a something of a luxury or even novelty to most in North America, where the mass market has been a way of life for well over half a century now, in Greece the relationship people have with the land is much more pervasive: it's something you see everywhere from the weekly laiki farmer's markets, held even in the heart of the larger cities like Athens, to the scarcity of fast food joints (there approximately two McDonalds in all of Athens, and only one serves breakfast) to heavy emphasis on locally sourced food items even in the national grocery chains.
In 1976 a one Mr. Diamantis Masoutis opened the first store in the chain that now bears his name, at K. Krystalli Street in the heart of Greece's second city, Thessaloniki. Today Diamantis Masoutis S.A. possesses the largest network of stores in Northern Greece and is a leader in the retail sector, while at a Greece-wide level the company is among the four largest chains. With 333 stores, 311 supermarkets, 22 wholesale Cash & Carry outlets, and two logistics centers, at Kavalari and at Markopoulo Industrial park, Attica, Masoutis S.A. covers all the prefectures of Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Epirus, Fthiotida, Thesprotia, Aitoloakarnania, and Attica as well as the islands of Limnos, Lesbos, Chios and one of our favorite hidden gem islands, Andros.
The family-run company employs more than 8,150 and is entirely Greek owned. As there is no Masoutis store within walking distance of my area, I decided to give their home delivery service a try. On the basis of selection, service and price, I can report that that they truly delivered. But before we get to the actual delivery, here's why of all the grocery stores I've tangoed with of late I'm liking Masoutis the best.
It all started with the watermelon.🍉
Earlier in the summer I bought a watermelon from a roadside fruit stand out in the Attica hinterlands. I lugged the thing back to my apartment, carved it up and tasted complete neutrality and near total absence of flavor. Which was surprising. Some time after a friend proffered me a container of perfectly cut watermelon squares from Masoutis and I was skeptical, but one fork in and it was crunchy and nearly as sweet as honey: that's what I call a summer watermelon. While I didn't include watermelon in my initial order I did think grapes were worth a try, and the bunch of green grapes that arrived—from a company in Crete called, appropriately enough, Minoan Fruits, were some of the best I had tasted all summer long. Conveniently packaged, too.🍇
Very crunchy and sweet, they are the kind of grapes that make you sad when you get to the last grape. They were seedless too, which is not always a given when it comes to Euro-grapes. Masoutis also stocks whole grain pasteli sesame treats from Patrikon, which is manufactured near Thebes and is some of the tastiest Greek pasteli, with the just the right addition of honey making the duo of pasteli squares that come in these nifty packages both nutritious and satisfyingly chewy (generally speaking, you want your pasteli to be chewy and not crunchy). The Black version is a real temptation!
Also available is an impressive range of mainly Greek honeys, included their own brand. We suggest the Masoutis "From Our Place" range.
Also intriguing? A nascent repositioning of the notion of street food from "oh it's just street food" to a category of dining that can hold its own and then some, gastronomically speaking. The idea being that you shop the elements at the store, then fix them up at home. Or as they put it, "And if street food once got a bad rap, nowadays a reborn gastronomic culture emerges around it, a new world, full of aromas and inspirations, fresh ingredients and cosmopolitan recipes, that mix, blend, confound and dazzle to delicious effect."
If that means an invitation to whip a gyro to call your own at home, we'll take it! Of course nothing can substitute for authentic street food, whether it's Greek or something else, but it's nice to know that should you want to try your hand at a souvlaki platter etc. that you can find the essentials to make it happen. Armed with the right recipe you just might be able to cook up something Instagram-worthy.
In sum, in this all important election season our vote is in, and we vote Masoutis.