Traditional Thracian and Macedonian cooks adapt to the seasons: in winter, rich game such as boar and venison is served; in summer, there are mussels and other seafood from the Aegean, as well as fruits and vegetables from the fertile plains. The relatively cooler climate here is reflected in rich chicken soups, roast chicken, stuffed vegetables, and stewed lamb and pork. Small plates (mezedes)
are a fundamental part of the Thessaloniki dining experience. Specialties include medhia (mussels), which come from farms outside the bay and are served in styles that include saganaki (sauted in a pan with tomatoes, peppers, and feta) and achnista (steamed in broth with herbs). Also look for soutzoukakia (Anatolian-style meatballs in tomato sauce, seasoned with cumin). Peinerli (an open-faced boat of bread filled with cheese and ham) is a Black Sea specialty brought here by the Pontii, Greeks who emigrated from that area.
Meals are complemented by generous amounts of wine, ouzo, and tsipouro, the local version of grappa. Try the excellent barrel or bottled local wines, especially reds under labels such as Naoussa or Porto Carras or a little bottle of Malamatina retsina, considered the best bottled version in Greece. Throughout the city, little shops and cellars specialize in a Macedonian treat called a submarine (or ipovrihio), a spoonful of sweets such as visino (black) cherries in syrup, dipped in a glass of ice water. As for dinnertime, you can arrive around 8, earlier than most Greeks like to eat dinner (many places do not open before then)—but it's much more fun to come at 9 or 10 and mix with the locals.