A taverna (Greek: ταβέρνα) is a small Greek restaurant that serves Greek cuisine. The taverna is an integral part of Greek culture and has become familiar to people from other countries who visit Greece, as well as through the establishment of tavernes (ταβέρνες, plural) in countries such as the United States and Australia by expatriate Greeks.
Taverna (in Greek ταβέρνα), is a word taken from the Latin taberna (in plural tabernae), meaning “shop” (see Roman taberna). The Latin word derived from tabula, meaning “table”.
The earliest evidence of a Greek restaurant was discovered at the Agora of Athens during excavations conducted by the American School of Classical Studies in the early 1970s. Large quantities of cooking and eating utensils were found at the taverna such as plates, mixing bowls, lidded casseroles, spits for broiling meat, mortars for chopping and grinding, as well as a cooking bell and a variety of jugs. Large amounts of fish bones and shellfish remains were also found, revealing the restaurant's offerings of oysters, mussels, murex, and large fish. A nearby wine shop, possibly in association with the restaurant, served local Attic wine, as well as a wide variety of wines imported from Chios, Mende, Corinth, Samos and Lesbos.
Establishments serving wine were also present in the Byzantine Empire, as evidenced by a 10th-century CE ordinance setting a curfew to prevent alcohol-induced "violence and rioting".
A typical menu for a modern taverna often includes:
Tavernes usually open at noon, with dinner hours starting at 20:00 and reaching a peak around 22:00. As tourism has grown in Greece, many tavernes have attempted to cater to foreign visitors with English menus and touts or "shills" being employed in many tavernes to attract passing tourists. Similarly, tavernes in tourist areas pay commissions to tour guides who send business their way.
The lead character in the play and film Shirley Valentine written by Willy Russell leaves her husband and family in Liverpool for a vacation where she has an affair with a waiter at the taverna and ends up working in the taverna.