The Vegetarian Option: Sophisticated Greek at Pylos in the East Village
Despite the incredible diversity of the restaurant scene in New York, we tend to characterize its neighborhoods by cuisine: Indian in Jackson Heights; Mexican in Sunset Park; Greek in Astoria. In the past, when the city was really a collection of small towns settled by different immigrant communities, these distinctions likely held true: but today, they're a thing of the past, which explains why one of my favorite Greek restaurants is located inside a long, narrow storefront on 7th Street in the East Village.
We first visited Pylos back in 2010, when Maggie stopped by for her inaugural Vegetarian Option post (oh, memories!). What Maggie pointed out then is still true today: Pylos, serving modern, upscale Greek cuisine at more-than-fair prices, is a vegetarian's haven. Sure, there are meat and fish dishes on the menu, but the majority of the plates are completely meat-free. More than that, they truly showcase the bounty of Mediterranean produce: vegetables are, uniformly well cooked and adeptly seasoned.
One of the highlights of a meal at Pylos, delightfully, is free: the warm, griddled pita bread served with a mild, subtly spiced lentil spread. It's good stuff, and the staff replenishes it throughout the meal.
A side dish of tsigarellia ($9), wilted chard and spinach cooked with celery and and fennel and topped with feta, is a comforting mix of tender vegetables bound with a light tomato sauce. Celery—often a divisive vegetable—here lends a sweet, herbal note.
Maroulosalata ($10), a mix of crisp shredded romaine, dill, scallions and feta, is more than meets the eye: the citrus-heavy lemon dressing is incredibly bright and refreshing, and copious amounts of fresh dill and salty feta cheese add lots of flavor and texture.
Fried zucchini and eggplant rounds served with tzatziki ($11, pictured at top) were the highlight of the meal at Pylos. The wafer-thin slices of vegetables are coated in a crisp, totally greaseless batter and dusted with parmesan cheese. The thick, milky tzatziki—studded with scallions, dill, and mint—makes a cooling spread for the hot, crunchy vegetables.
So the next time you're craving Greek but don't feel like heading out to Queens, give Pylos a try. An added bonus? Big Gay Ice Cream's brick-and-mortar is directly across the street.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.