Greek restaurants and traditional Greek food have made Astoria famous. But in a neighborhood where pita bread and olive oil take the place of bread and butter, originality is key to a successful Greek eatery. From moussaka to beeftekia, tzatziki to saganaki, these eight Greek restaurants are must eats.
A relative newcomer to Astoria in 2007, Ovelia holds its own. Walk by and peek inside — you won't find empty tables. Owned by two sets of brothers (and Astoria natives), Ovelia exudes life and style. The atmosphere is sleek and modern without trying too hard, and the music mixes Greek with American pop. A hangout for young patrons, you'll find Ovelia bumping, especially on the weekends, for its famous brunch.
The best dish at Ovelia? The homemade Greek sausage -- ground by husband and wife chefs Litsa and John Giannakas -- is a fragrant accompaniment to the signature omelets. The homemade tiro pita feta toast is also a favorite for brunch or lunch.
Across from Astoria Park, Agnanti lives and breathes tradition, family and Mediterranean culture. The decor is endearing and nostalgic, with artifacts and photos from the old country. You can't help but feel enveloped by Agnanti's personal touch as if you're sitting in your "yia-yia's" (grandma's) kitchen.
The food tells a similar family story. With "meze" in its name, Agnanti's strength lies in small dishes, both hot and cold. The melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant and garlic spread) ignites the senses but isn't too heavy. Other amazing small dishes include tomato keftedes (tomato and herb croquettes) and the kefte mentite (chopped meat and yogurt patties).
This neighborhood taverna is as close to Greece as you'll get. A small place, seating up to 20 indoors and maybe 15 outdoors, Corner 26 Taverna is homey and personal. The menu is simple and includes traditional Greek basics. Some of the best ones to try are the scordalia (garlic mashed potatoes), fried whiting and, of course, the gyro platter (with Greek salad, giant seasoned steak fries, and homemade tzatziki). Ask about the Greek house wines, which are inexpensive and mighty tasty. Bring cash; this place does not accept credit cards.
If you want seafood cooked up Greek style, check out Elias Corner. It's about as fresh as you can get: The owner catches it each morning. You won't get a menu; just check out the counter up front. This casual place is all about the fish. Bring Benjamins; Elias Corner doesn't take plastic.
Taverna Kyclades is Zagat-rated and recommended in the 2013 Michelin Guide. That's a pretty high bar for this Greek restaurant that is known for its fish. Pick your fish, and get it grilled whole, flavored with olive oil, lemon, and oregano. Simple and delicious. Add saganaki and Greek salad on the side for a full-on Greek feast at one of the best Greek restaurants in New York City.
Zenon Taverna takes its name from the Cypriot philosopher Zenon of Kitium, who lived circa 330 B.C. Its menu is bursting with meze, or appetizers, with a definite Cypriot slant. It also has daily specials; check the menu and pick the day with your favorites -- grape leaves, Cypriot meatballs, pastitsio, and mousaka are just a few of the choices. If these aren't piquing your interest, the menu offers many more choices -- pitas, and platters of chicken, seafood, pork, and lamb.
If you've got a jones for an all-American steak but are also feeling like something Greek, Christos Steakhouse will satisfy both cravings. It offers a wide choice of charbroiled, aged steaks but also Greek-style feta cheese fries, Greek salad, and saganaki in a classy setting.
Telly's Taverna offers up a broad list of seafood along with Greek specialties like saganaki, halloumi, baked feta, tzatziki, spinach pie, lima beans baked in tomato sauce and Greek salad. The comfortable setting, with whitewashed brick walls dark wood, add to the appeal.