A Guide to Greek Eats in Astoria

I’ve lived in Astoria for 4 years now, and have grown to love the Greek fare that fills this not-so-little Queens neighborhood.

I’ve broken my favorites down by avenue, to show that you really can access good eats, no matter where you are in Astoria.

  • Zenon Taverna (31st Avenue): Zenon was the first Greek restaurant I ever dined at in Astoria, and it’s by far my absolute favorite. It’s hard not to love this family-owned and operated taverna. Their menu can be overwhelming – in a good way – with so many vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. My favorite? The chargrilled vegetables with skordalia, and their spanikopita. I also love, and have a hard time resisting, their trahana soup. Trahana is a cypriot soup that’s a bit like a porridge. It’s thick and tart from its yogurt base, and gets its texture from halloumi and bulgur. Make sure to treat yourself to dessert, too. The galatekboureko is delicious, but so are their homemade ice creams. If they have the rose-flavored one, try it. We had it for Valentine’s Day, and I’ve had dreams about it since. One note: Zenon is cash only, but I’d empty my savings to eat here if I had to.
  • Ovelia (30th Avenue): When I lived on 31st Avenue, and was in the mood for something a little hip, Ovelia was my go-to spot. It’s trendy without being pretentious, and serves up some of the best Greek-style brunch, lunch, and dinner fare on 30th Avenue. Not as old school as others nearby, Ovelia puts a modern spin on some of the Greek classics. My favorite dish on their menu is their eggs florentine. They serve two plump poached eggs over pita, sitting on top of spinach and feta. They also serve Lavazza coffee, which is a major plus.
  • Kopiaste (23rd Avenue): Kopiaste is a very warm, cozy taverna, located between Ditmars and 23rd Avenue on 31st street. It’s nestled to the side, but you don’t want to miss it. Their food is as lovely as their owner, George, who will make sure you’re happy with your food. He truly values quality and service, and it shows in every detail of the restaurant. This used to be our go-to place, but as we get busier, we haven’t been in a while. An added bonus here is that they offer complimentary dessert, and it’s always changing, and always delicious.
  • Taverna Kyclades (Ditmars Boulevard): Here’s the thing, I used to not be on the Kyclades bandwagon. The restaurant is teeny tiny, and unless you arrive promptly at noon, there’s always at least a 30 minute wait. That said, Kyclades has quickly grown to be one of my favorite Astoria spots (see, I’m capable of change!). If you’re a vegetarian like me, I suggest any of their salads, their beets, or their gigantes. The spinach pie is a bit too rich for my palate. Their dolma are also delectable. What really keeps me coming back though, are the dips. The skordalia and the tzatziki pack a fantastic garlicky punch that makes my mouth water just at the thought. Like many Astoria tavernas, Kyclades offers complimentary galaktoboureko or house wine if they’re out of the sweets. My one gripe? I wish they had the melitzanosalata that they serve at their East Village location. If you know me, you know I cannot get enough of eggplant.
  • MP Taverna (Ditmars Boulevard): It certainly took chutzpah for Michael Psilakis to open MP Taverna just a few storefronts away from Kyclades, the neighborhood favorite. MP Taverna has reached fame in its other locations, and it seems that Astoria is much the same. I find its fare to be slightly overpriced and lacking in properly portioned vegetarian fare. The meat dishes are huge, but most of the meat-free options are sides or smaller salads. That said, the one delicious vegetarian option that I love is their fusilli. It’s such a fun version of the corkscrew-shaped pasta, and it’s drenched in a super deep, rich, spicy tomato sauce. The texture is playful, with cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth, bread crumbs, and feta to boot. But with an appetizer, two drinks, and two main courses, your bill will easily tip over $100 before tax and gratuity. For Astoria, that’s kind of silly.

Pictured: Vegetarian Fare from Taverna Kyclades

  • Top, left to right: Spanikopita, Peasant Salad.
  • Middle, left to right: Skordalia, Gigantes
  • Bottom, left to right: Tzatziki, Pita Bread

Image

The Peter Horowitz Experience

Moving is stressful. There’s no way to avoid the stress, but choosing the right realtor is definitely a strong step in minimizing the it.

I stumbled upon Peter’s website one year ago. I was having issues with my current apartment, and honestly lusted after his listings. They seemed relatively flaw-free.

Throughout the year, I stayed focused on his blog and social, looking for apartments to get an understanding of what I could afford, and tallying the factors that were negotiable, must-haves, or all together unnecessary.

Nudging from my boyfriend convinced me that a May 1 move was a smart idea, and that it’d be less stressful.

It wasn’t.

Until I contacted Peter.

He was able to get an April 15 lease to push to May 1, and he set up a viewing within 24 hours of my phone call.

Hyper-reachable, and able to answer almost any question thrown his way, Peter truly took his time and did not rush us through the leasing process.

The best part about working with Peter has been that it is not a one-and-done experience. He keeps tabs on the tenants he works with, because their happiness is his reputation.

Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, and check out his images on Instagram.

The Next Chapter

Love does funny things to you. Sure, I’ve been in love in the past. And each time I thought I had it figured out, I was wrong. We broke up, and I moved on.

I’m in this position now where things keep changing, and I am perhaps the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

When I first moved to New York, I struggled. I’ve worked too hard for what I have to not brag that I’ve since earned four promotions in less than three years. I’ve had two apartments (one for one year, one for two), many friends — some good, and some bad with whom I’ve parted ways — and a whirlwind of experiences in between.

I leave this apartment behind next week, all in the name of love.

I never imagined that in less than 6 months after we first met in December, and had our first date at the MET, we’d be moving in together. But we are, and we picked up our keys today.

I’m not sure about a lot of things, and if history is any evidence, I’m wrong about almost everything, but I’m pretty certain in this case that things are different. His family is wonderful, his intentions are the best, and 97% of the time (save the 3% when he’s in former frat boy mode) I’m having the best of times.

He’s been my right-hand for a series of firsts: first time at the MET, first time in several states (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California), first time trying sole (and I liked it, kind of), first time in a Manhattan ER my own injury (I hurt my neck on the drive back from MA).

This post wasn’t supposed to be about love, but instead about moving. And maybe it still is, because I love New York, and moving within one of its boroughs  When I moved here, what I knew of apartment living came mostly from sit-coms like Friends, Mad About You, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Will & Grace, etc. Unreasonably priced, unrealistically beautiful Manhattan apartments that were coveted.

The same is not entirely true for Queens. Some people have found places to covet, but others are drifters. From pre-war, to luxury low-rise, new things pop up that stir curiosity in long-time Astoria residents and newbies alike.

When I found this place, it seemed perfect. I was moving in with a friend and it seemed much more stable than where I had lived when I first moved. We’ve had our ups and downs here, but it hasn’t been half-bad.

I always thought my next move would mark the beginning of the chapter of me. A studio or a one bedroom of my own. But, fate changed, and I’m really excited for the next chapter, and a new corner of Astoria to explore and call home with the man that I love.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

New Yorkers love their neighborhoods. And while I proudly broadcast by suburban Detroit roots, I love Astoria.

A Greek restaurant in Astoria

A Greek restaurant in Astoria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve built a community around my life in New York. I have my local taverna (Zenon – the best Greek food you’ll ever have . . . ever), my laundromat (Geno’s! Geno and his cousin Ronald take care of my clothes on a weekly basis for $0.65/pound), my coffee shop (Brooklyn Bagel on 30th Ave. – amazing iced coffee and stellar mini whole wheat everything bagels), and of course, my local movie theater (United Artists Kaufman Astoria). Astoria, like many other ‘hoods outside of Manhattan, has the amazing ability to feel as much like a city as it needs to, while still playing the part of a quieter, more suburban locale.

I’m dedicating my summer to getting to know Astoria even better, by perusing the green market, hanging at the beer gardens, and sampling skordalia from taverna to taverna.

If you’ve never stepped foot beyond Manhattan, I highly suggest taking the N/R/Q over the East River and into Astoria.

Places worth trying:

  1. Zenon Taverna
  2. Ovelia
  3. MexiQ
  4. Museum of the Moving Image
  5. Bohemian Hall Beer Garden
  6. Mama Yogurt
  7. The Sparrow Tavern
  8. Vesta
  9. Frank’s Bakery
  10. Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

 

 

You go, Greek yogurt.

I live in Astoria — an area of Queens, NY that is known for its population of Greeks and their delicious restaurants (try Zenon Taverna) — but my taste for Greek food developed far before my big move. One of my favorite foods, which was especially fun to use as I started to develop some skills in the kitchen, is Greek yogurt.

I tend to buy Greek yogurt in individually-sized, 6 oz. containers. When I buy larger quantities, I tend not to use it before the expiration date.

One of the great things about Greek yogurt is that it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. While I love it with a little bit of Splenda and cinnamon with fruit, I also really like it with freshly cracked pepper, paprika, garlic powder and a pinch of freshly ground sea salt.

The 6 oz. containers are plenty satisfying. In fact, when I find that when I’m using the yogurt for a sauce and not a dip, I really only need 2 oz. It’s so full of protein, and of course, flavor.

In terms of brand loyalty, I tend to buy either Chobani or Fage, with a preference for Fage because it’s a bit thicker in consistency. Despite the dishy John Stamos doing an ad for Oikos, I’m not likely to try it.

My favorite recipe for Greek yogurt is to add fresh dill, cucumber, salt, and pepper, and use it as a tzatziki-style dip for vegetarian chicken nuggets.

The Move

Tuesday May 17 marked my one-year anniversary with Planned Television Arts. In one year, I moved to New York, got my dream starter job, and was promoted from Social Media Coordinator to Social Media Manager (thanks, Jeff). At work, I’m happy. Great assistant, great  coordinator.

At home, not so much. My roommate and I, a friend of my sister’s since youth, were simply not on the same page. Our early experiences living together were filled with passive aggression and hostility. As we both dealt with our respective issues, tension eased, and our friendship healed, but it was clear to us both that in order for us to go on as friends and not frenemies, or worse, just plain enemies, one of us had to move.

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[Olive] Oil Advisory

On my morning commute, I am almost consistently approached by at least one oddball. A few weeks ago, I had a rare evening commute conversation with a lady outside of the bus shelter waiting for the Q66 bus down 35th Avenue. As we stood in front of Panera, me wondering if I should find shelter from the impending store, the woman approached me to talk about the bus schedule. The conversation switched quickly to the topic of Queens-area grocery stores. When I mentioned my vegetarianism, she asked what kind of oil I cooked with. I listed off: extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil. She scolded me instantly. I use extra virgin olive oil for everything (especially salads), but apparently it should not be used for cooking. I wrote off this bubby-type, only because I had not heard this from anyone else, until moments ago when I clicked my StumbleUpon button, and it led me to this page.

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