Long known as a haven for Greek immigrants and Greek Americans, Astoria boasts some of the best Greek restaurants outside of Greece. But lately, Manhattan has been catching up on the trend. Some spots are outposts of beloved favorites in Queens, while others are wholly original. Read on for our picks. By Jessica Allen.
Wine rules at The Greek, a wood-lined, pub-like ouzerie and taverna in Tribeca. Here, you’ll find a Greek-only wine list (divided into sections like “discovery,” and “indulgence”) as well as mousaka, chilled octopus salad and other specialties based on recipes handed down from the ancestors of the owners and staff. Indeed, there’s a whole section on the menu titled “Grandma’s,” and featuring meatballs, cheese croquettes, pites (pies with spinach and feta), and stuffed grape leaves.
Helmed by famed chef and restauranteur Michael Psilakis, Kefi has been wowing crowds for years. These folks come for lunch, dinner, and brunch, craving the food Psilakis grew up eating and stay for the hospitality and reasonable prices (cheaper than comparable spots on the Upper West Side, for sure). The bustling spot is ideal for friends, meet-the-parents meals, and family get-togethers. We’re longtime fans of the crispy calamari and sheep’s milk dumplings with pine nuts and lamb sausage.
Consider yourself warned: a huge number of clay pots (aka pylos) dangle from the ceiling at Pylos, adding to the East Village restaurant’s charm. Once safely seated, you’ll feast on elevated home-cooked goodness, like shrimp in a sauce made with ouzo, tomato and cream, braised pork shank with lemon and herbs, and poached salmon over spinach rice pilaf. If it sounds more upscale than some of the other spots on this list, that’s because it is. You don’t need to don a tux, but you should certainly consider it for date night.
Run by a first-generation Greek family, Souvlaki GR prides itself on making guests feel a part of the clan. Newcomers are embraced, children are tickled, older folks are treated with respect. Oh, and the food’s really great too. As you’d expect from the name, souvlaki is big here, and you can get pitas stuffed with shrimp, pork, chicken, veggies, or traditional Greek sausage. Consider making like a Greek and beginning your meal with dakos, barley rusks covered with olives, feta, tomatoes, and onion (similar to bruschetta.)
Sister to the popular Taverna Kyclades in Queens, the East Village location offers the same kind of heartwarming, waist-expanding cooking as the original. Long after our first visit, we’re still dreaming about lemon-roasted potatoes — a dish whose simplicity belies its utter deliciousness — and sweet, flaky galaktoboureko dessert. Named for the Cyclades islands, this restaurant does seafood supremely well, as in its grilled swordfish, black sea bass, shrimp stuffed with crabmeat, and fried baby shark with garlic dip.