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

Persepolis [Review]

Delicious. Delicious. Delicious. I’ve wanted to try Persepolis (not to be confused for the popular graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi) for quite some time, and was finally able to eat here for my Yom Kippur “start-the-fast” meal with my cousin. We met at the restaurant on a Friday night around 7, and it was relatively empty. I started with an appetizer of the borani – a yogurty delicious dip with garlic and spinach. They served the borani with an assortment of Persian breads, but I actually found it went best with my main dish, the Khoresht Gaimeh Badamjan — this savory rich stew complete with split peas, eggplant, tomatoes, served over rice. I opted for the polo baghali (basmati rice with dill and fava beans). The rice was really delicious and silky in texture, with a rich, almost buttery flavor. Its pairing with the borani and the khoresht gaimeh badamjan was a little taste of amazing.

The bill was just over $50 each, and we split it evenly. For just above $30 each, though, it was an excellent dining experience that I’d love to repeat.

Tapas Adela Restaurant [Review]

A little over a month ago, I visited my friend Janet and her fiance (now husband) Michael. We were looking around Fells Point for restaurants of interest, and came here because of its cool outdoor seating, and delicious-sounding menu.

We started with the sangria blanca. It was really crisp, and had an interesting pear/lychee flavor. We ordered two tapas each, and shared a plate of olives. Everything was so inexpensive. The olives, a pretty full platter, were under $4, and the meal was served with 4 pieces of bruschetta. I ordered the Coliflor Gratinada – cauliflower with manchengo, olives, onions, garlic, and chickpeas, and the Garbanzos Tostados — roasted chickpeas with onions, tomatoes, and sherry vinegar. Both dishes were really delicious and filling, which I felt was surprising given the price.

Janet ordered Veiras con Vinagreta de Pistachios, which was a seared scallop dish. She seemed to really enjoy it. For her second tapa, she ordered Espinaca Salteado, which was a salty spinach and roasted garlic dish topped with Cana de Cabra – a tangy Spanish goat cheese.

I was thrilled with the attentive service and delicious food, and it was incredibly affordable for such a trendsetting cuisine in a hip neighborhood.

Founding Farmers – Washington, DC [Review]

Aguacate / Avocado

Image via Wikipedia

I try to visit my company‘s DC office as often as possible – the people are wonderful (Sandy, Dee, Hillary) and Washington, DC offers a nice change of pace from New York City. Each time I visit, we tend to have a nice, relaxed business lunch to catch up, and of course, to eat well.

On this past visit, a few weeks back, we set our hungry eyes on Founding Farmers (1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW). After finishing our meal, my first thought was, “I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt this full . . . ever.”

Such a great restaurant — from the decor to the food on the plate; everything is made to feel very homey. We started with an appetizer of the fried green tomatoes, which are served with this great avocado sauce and goat cheese spread, and an appetizer of cornbread, which is served with a really savory honey butter in a cast-iron skillet. Corn bread with chunks of real sweet corn? Delicious.

For the main course, we all ordered fairly different dishes. I had the roasted vegetable tartine, but I substituted the avocado spread for goat cheese. It was served with a delicious tomato soup. The dish was really well-assembled, but I maybe would have wished that the tartine was served warm. The other dishes ordered were a scallop risotto dish that looked delicious, the shrimp cobb salad, the chicken and quinoa dish, as well as the 17 vegetable salad. The salads both looked great, the shrimp salad was bigger, and the chicken dish was also bigger than I would have guessed. The service was impeccable – really friendly and attentive, and most importantly, really well educated on the ingredients in every dish. I would happily return to Founding Farmers, with friends or with colleagues.

Vero Midtown [Review]

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve walked passed Vero many times on my 2nd Ave. treks, and came here for a quick lunch with one of my colleagues after a long schlep back from the west side of Manhattan. I was in the mood for something with goat cheese, and so we opted for Vero as it has several items that fit that description.

I had the chopped salad, my colleague had the tuna tartare and we both had a glass of the watermelon sangria. My meal was delicious. Perfect portion, great fresh ingredients. The salad had currants, red peppers, feta (but I actually think it was crumbled goat cheese), tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and chickpeas and while normally dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, I opted for just some balsamic vinegar.

My colleague’s dish was really well-presented. It was tuna tartare stacked with fried wontons and the garnish was really bright and vibrant.

The sangria was really delicious. The watermelon puree worked really well with the crisp white wine, with floating pears on top.

Only thing I wished would have been different, and the reason I withheld the fifth star when I reviewed Vero on Yelp, is that the salad was not as finely chopped as I would have hoped. Everything else? Wonderful.

The Art of the Menu

Thanks to a post from Kettle NYC, I discovered Under Consideration’s Art of the Menu. As someone who loves to cook, and who enjoys the modern culture of food (be it making it and serving it, or ordering it and eating it), I found the page pretty cool.

I spent a few minutes checking out the artistic and kitschy/quirky qualities, and picked two personal favorite designs:

Schiller’s Liquor Bar

Courtesy of UnderConsideration

I loved the hand-drawn style of the font. It added a positive rustic quality to the menu, which to me, gives the menu and its offerings even more authenticity.

Parc

Courtesy of UnderConsideration

Like the commentary from UnderConsideration, I enjoyed the playful, and yet elegant nature of the multiple font choices. The colors are easy on the eyes, and the playful factor pops up again with the details and illustrations scattered throughout the page. The menu also reads in a fairly logical way.