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Grilled Octopus, Tzatziki, and Assyrtiko: Where to Find NYC’s Greatest Greek Eats

by Amanda Svachula

posted on January 17, 2019

Photo Courtesy: orangeinthecity

For decades, searching for superlative Greek fare outside of Astoria was an exercise in frustration, but nowadays flaky spanikopita, tangy avgolemeno soup, and honey-soaked baklava can be found beyond its streets. Here we’ve highlighted eight of the best, ranging from a buzzy Chinatown spot to a bakery serving up an endless variety of phyllo-swaddled sweets. (Don’t worry, we also included a couple of classic Astoria tavernas.)

Photo Courtesy: hungryhippie_

Opened in 1987, Periyali laid the ground for modern Greek restaurants in NYC. Here, you’ll find classic dishes in a white-tablecloth setting. For a hearty meal, order the rabbit stew, braised with red wine and pearl onions, or the classic paidakia thedrolivano (grilled lamb chops with roast potatoes and rosemary). And the charcoal-grilled octopus you see on every table? You’re going to want a plate of that too.

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Wild salmon baked in phyllo with spinach, braised lamb shank with tomato orzo stew, charcoal grilled kebab of filet mignon, chicken livers with warm lentils, crisp calamari with garlic sauce

Photo Courtesy: @orangeinthecity

Be prepared to wait a while for a table at Taverna Kyclades, arguably Astoria’s most famous restaurant. Your patience will be rewarded with generous portions, reasonable prices, and a bustling atmosphere. Named after a series of Grecian islands, Kyclades is appropriately a standout spot for seafood — try the the swordfish kebabs or branzini. And if you’re not in the mood for the hubbub of the original, consider a visit to one of the satellite locations in the East Village or Bayside, Queens.

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Grilled octopus, Mediterranean sea bass, galaktoboureko

Photo Courtesy: Yefsi

A neighborhood favorite, Yefsi Estiatorio offers a selection of nearly 50 Greek wines in a dimly-lit space on the Upper East Side. Be sure to try the Yefsi chips (fried zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki), grilled octopus, and loukaniko (pork sausage flavored with orange and fennel). And for dessert, you can’t go wrong with baklava.

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Yefsi Angus beef burger, vegetable pasta with olives, lahanika, mousaka, plaki pan roasted strip bass

Photo Courtesy: Snack Taverna

Despite its name, Snack Taverna breaks from the standard blue-and-white motif and traditional menu list one has come to expect. Yes, tzatziki, dolmades, and avgolemono soup are on offer, but also cheesy zucchini fritters, veal meatballs, avocado toast, and lamb triangles (phyllo dough stuffed with spiced lamb, capers, and graviera cheese). Pair your meal with a bottle of white from the well-edited wine list, or a Bloody Mary at brunch (why not?).

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Seared lamb, Greek salad with barrel-aged feta, souvlaki, stuffed grape leaves

Photo Courtesy: pibakerie

Get your fill of flaky phyllo dough at Soho’s Pi Bakerie, where display cases are filled with a seemingly-endless variety of bite-size pastries. Pair a couple of these with a cup of coffee for a sweet snack, or, if something more substantial is in order, try one of the traditional Greek pies that this airy cafe is named for. As far as savory options go, you can’t go wrong with the ham painerli pi, made with ham and two types of Greek cheese (kasseri and kefalotiri), or a bagel-like koulouri sandwich. On the sweet end of the spectrum, consider the bougatsa pi, filled with decadent cinnamon custard, or the luxuriously-thick strained yogurt topped with sour cherry preserves.

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Greek coffee, sour cherry yogurt, moussaka pi, spanakopita pi, freshly baked apple tart

Photo Courtesy: @taleitalei

For seafood, look no further than Bahari Estiatorio, near the Broadway subway stop in Astoria. Not a single inch of space is wasted in this homey space, and the menu is similarly packed with options. The adventurous can try galeos saganaki (baby shark luxuriating in a creamy sauce of feta and jalapeños); if white fish is more your speed, go for the lemony grilled shrimp or the grilled whole branzini. Round things out with the tyrokafteri (feta cheese dip) and the roasted lemon potatoes, and you’ll leave sated and satisfied.

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Krya pikilia, feta saganaki, paidakia

Photo Courtesy: Molyvos

Join the pre-theater set at Molyvos, a rare gem in a part of town that’s not exactly known for its dining. The decor is a bit of a throwback — it has been open since the ‘90s, after all — and it’s one of the more expensive spots on this list, but you’ll soon forget that as you drink your way through its extensive wine list. As for food, consider succulent lamb shanks, rich moussaka, or the whole fish for your main; a trio of cheeses or spreads make for an excellent starter.

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Spanokopita, moussaka, Kumato tomato salad, saganaki, grilled octopus

Photo Courtesy: radiantfoodie

If it wasn’t for the crowd milling about the entrance, you might walk past Kiki’s, a fashion-set favorite in the sceney part of Chinatown. In a nod to the neighborhood — and perhaps, adding to its mystique — the sign is written in Chinese characters, but once you venture inside the dimly-lit, brick-lined space, it’s as if you’re transported to a traditional Greek tavern. As far as the food goes, expect excellent examples of unfussy staples like horiatiki (a classic Greek salad topped with a huge brick of feta), lemony garlic chicken with potatoes, saganaki (pan-fried cheese drizzled with honey), moussaka, and grilled octopus.

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Grilled octopus, saganaki, lamb chops

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