Welcome to Astoria, home of the city's greatest Greek food and shawarma. It's where neighborhood sausage shops and Italian delis are still part of daily life, and where cafes line the streets with games of backgammon and strong mint tea, or tiny cups of even stronger coffee with flaky phyllo pastries. Here's how to eat it all.
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Rooftop bars, low-key gardens, people-watching patios—whatever your inclination (and whatever your drink), we've got you covered in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
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.
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.
In a neighborhood with lots of solid pizza but little that's exceptional, a place that makes destination-worthy pies remains Astoria's golden unicorn. Though Basil Brick Oven is a go-to spot for Neapolitan pizza in the neighborhood, the market's gotten more crowded lately, wood burning ovens and all.
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.