Taverna Kyclades is the easier-to-get-into Rao's of Astoria's Greek restaurant scene. You'll find some good grilled fish there, but the real draw is the clubby community that leads to two hour waits for a table on peak nights. Fortunately, if you're looking for good traditional Greek, Kyclades is far from your only option.
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Astoria's Koliba specializes in oversized plates of comfort food. Chief among them: spaetzle with sauerkraut and bacon.
The specialty at Gregory's 26 Corner is, resoundingly, its warm hospitality. The food doesn't disappoint, either.
When Miroslav Uskokovic, the head pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern, moved to Astoria in 2009, he felt right at home. As he puts it, "I try to eat in Queens a lot. Everyone comes to Manhattan. Why not support your local places?"
Cheesy, oily, mega-enchiladas have their place. When you're not in that place yourself, these lighter ones do quite well.
Few Greek restaurants seem to get everything right; you'd do best to pick your favorite by their specialty. At E Taverna in Astoria, it's molluscs.
Sorriso Pork Store is an Italian deli in Astoria with a reputation for good sandwiches, great deli products, and some of the friendliest counter staff you'll find anywhere. It deserves that rep on all fronts.
A satisfying, if imperfect, addition to the neighborhood's lunch options.
Frying is something of a specialty at Telly's Taverna in Astoria, from the Greek fried doughnuts that end your meal (on the house) to the thinly sliced fried vegetables that should begin it. Zucchini, red pepper, and eggplant are available for $6 apiece or $14 in combination; the zucchini, rendered intensely sweet and tender by the heat of the fryer, is your best bet.
At New York taquerias, sandwiches are sometimes a safer bet than tacos—New York bakeries produce better bread than our tortilla factories. And at La Herradura in Astoria, a fresh, poofy torta roll makes a welcome base for a Carnitas Torta ($6).
Mezze Place is a Middle Eastern restaurant in Astoria with a quirky talent for vegetables, a friendly, romantic vibe, and one of the greatest chandeliers in New York. In many respects it's an archetypical neighborhood restaurant—welcoming, affordable, often quietly delicious—with some gems worth bragging about to those in farther zip codes.
I wouldn't call Dave and Tony's Salumeria in Astoria a "secret" sandwich shop, but they don't shout their heros from the rooftops either. Go for one with fresh mozzarella, made right in the store.
Even some loyal shoppers tend to ignore the bakery counter at Titan Foods, which is a shame, as this must-visit Greek market makes some of the best sweets in the neighborhood. By and large they're heavily soaked in syrup, which isn't always a great thing for flaky phyllo pastries, but does wonders for cakes.
The Shady Lady is one of Astoria's two new oyster bars, boasting a nice draught list and a decent hand with classic cocktails. Not all the bar snacks shine, but these reasonably priced, feather-light spinach fritters are one bite I'd return for.
In interviews, Michael Psilakis has made clear that MP Taverna, his casual restaurant brand now in Astoria, features a more visceral, less cerebral approach to Greek food. That doesn't mean the menu is dumbed down or made less "ethnic." It means you're happy that the kitchen is generous with that pita, because those stray licks of olive oil on the plate won't finish themselves.
Chef Michael Psilakis is no stranger to restaurant openings and intense food, but his newly opened MP Taverna comes with the added challenge of it's location being in the heart of Astoria. We chatted with Psilakis on what Greek food means to him now, what it meant when he first started cooking and where he still wants the conversation on Greek cuisine to go.
I can count on one hand—if that—the number of times I've had a still-crisp eggplant parm on a hero. But that's fine by me so long as we adjust our expectations for a successful sandwich. If you like the idea of breaded eggplant spread with sweet tomato and milky mozzarella, the version at Rosario's deli in Astoria ($6.50 on a roll, $5.50 on a roll) is probably up your alley.
Telly's Taverna is my Astoria Greek restaurant of choice, mostly for their superior vegetables and dips. But it's the loukmades—free every night except Saturday—that win me over.