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Jul 16, 2014 07:35 AM

Guide to NYC's 10 Best Greek Restaurants and Tavernas

Has anyone found truly delicious Greek food in the five boros?
Plain grilled fish, sure, there's plenty.
Plain grilled meat on a stick, every corner.
Unseasoned greek-like food stuff, every place.

GOOD Greek Food??? Anyone???

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  1. Artopolis has good Greek desserts and pitas (not the bread). Other than that I rarely eat Greek out of the house. When I do go somewhere with friends I will order fried smelts and horta. The smelts because they're not always easy to find and my apartment smells for days when I deep fry fish.

    12 Replies
    1. re: MVNYC

      Sooo... home cooked Greek trumps anything available in any of these places?

      1. re: Gastronomos

        Depends what you are ordering I suppose

        1. re: MVNYC

          fried little fish... sardines, smelts, anchovies, spearing, etc..., is good meze, but what if one wanted an entree? a full meal? you know, like in every other restaurant?

          1. re: Gastronomos

            Fried little fish, a nice plate of Horta and a couple of glasses of wine sounds like a pretty good meal to me.

            What are you getting at? That Greek restaurants in Astoria aren't that good compared to Greece? I'm in full agreement there.

            1. re: MVNYC

              Other than plain fried or plain grilled, what options are out there? I am done and over with Stamatis, not that there is anything *wrong* with it, it's just unseasoned food that all tastes the same. And the abuse the non-Greek speaking customers get is annoying.

              Maybe Ovelia?

              1. re: Gastronomos

                Try MP Taverna for a modern take on Greek fare. Very flavorful and interesting tapas style appetizers.

                1. re: queenseats

                  Thanks. I replied to Steve R about MP Taverna, the meze (tapas) and the lamented loss of Chef Michael Psilakis first awesome place called ONERA.

                2. re: Gastronomos

                  The boys, Peter and Chris who own it have taken a modern approach to Greek..(I know them well and did the plumbing work when they built the restaurant). Their menu is a little tired though.
                  The drinks at happy hour are just fine!

                  1. re: PHREDDY

                    Modern is fine. I don't discriminate, but I haven't heard great things of their menu. The Rockin' Ribs or the plain diner style skirt steak. The TV spot on Chopped was exactly where I thought that they belonged ... LOL

        2. re: MVNYC

          Where do you usually find the smelts? One thing that I often crave.


          1. re: Alan Henderson

            Not Greek & not regularly on the menu, but Noodle Pudding (Italian in Bklyn Heights) has great smelts or baitfish periodically. This past week, they've been serving a large plate of them, cleanly fried, for $10 as an appetizer & I've had them twice, sitting at the bar.

        3. Is Elias Corner still operating in Astoria and any good? It was great in the late 90s and early 00s.

          12 Replies
          1. re: guanubian

            open, but it's not as busy anymore. for plain grilled fish the lines are at Taverna Kyklades.

            still, what about real Greek food? plain fish is, well, plain...

            1. re: Gastronomos

              Hi, curious, are there particular dishes you are looking for and not seeing?

              1. re: jen kalb

                Hi, thanks for the good question. There is almost everything available if one was to visit each and every place, but none of it is all that great. Perhaps something where one needn't hold a fork in one hand and a salt shaker in the other would be a good place to start?

                1. re: Gastronomos

                  I happen to agree with what I think is the thrust of your posts here; that except for fresh fish simply grilled, its hard to find real down home (or upscale) Greek food with solid flavors anymore. The dishes are there, but the cooking seems, well like a light beer compared to beer. It seems to be easier these days to get this in Turkish or Middle Eastern places (I guess the most similar to Greek that can be had). That being said, have you tried MP Taverna on Ditmars? I haven't, but Michael Psilikis has a pretty good reputation.

                  eta: just saw that queenseats already recommended it.

                  1. re: Steve R

                    Thanks. We are on the same page for sure. I've been to Michael Psilakis places, MP Taverna Roslyn & Astoria, Kefi, and his first and best ONERA.
                    I wish his places now were as good as ONERA was. THAT was the epitome and definition of Great Greek Cuisine!
                    He got his name, now he too serves food for the masses, albeit infinitely better than anything found elsewhere. Unless someone chimes in with something worthwhile.............

                    1. re: Gastronomos

                      So you're looking for a place in addition to MP Taverna Astoria for variety? Or a place that's better because you are not satisfied with it?

                      MP Taverna and Agnanti are my go to places for Greek in Astoria and Molyvos in Manhattan.

                      1. re: Pookipichu

                        MP Taverna, albeit better than any of the rest, is serving to the masses now. Nothing really going on.

                        Agnanti is one of the better of the rest, but the pre-cooked and reheated stuff is a huge turnoff. For example, the pastourmali on the menu should be a "à la minute" preparation, but they precook it and reheat it. BLECH!
                        The steam tables at Stamatis are just as much a turn off.

                        Molyvos was written off from my list many years back when I endured one of the worst meals of my life at the time in their dining room. And it's menu is only half Greekstyle.

                        Thanks for the rec though. Agnanti will be seeing me soon. It's about time I Chowhound my way through their menu again.

                        1. re: Gastronomos

                          Agnanti was recommended by a Greek friend who also owns restaurants in Manhattan. I found the food at Agnanti not very good. The fish was way overcooked. Although not great, I stick with Telly's Taverna or Kyclades.

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            Thanks for the warning. Luckily I almost never order a plain whole fish at these places. Despite it *may* be the only thing they make to order...

                            I tend to try the more interesting options on the menu or the steam table... and invariably get disappointed.

                            Still. Seeking. Greek. Food. In. New York.

                      2. re: Gastronomos

                        I am not a pro when it comes to greek food but i did have a wonderful meal at Kefi not long ago- my dad raved about his grilled octopus and we shared some mezze. Surprisingly their kefi salad was one of the best i have ever had. Nothing needed salt (and i love salt!) but the walnut honey cake stole the show.

                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                          Chef Michael Psilakis' food is usually properly seasoned. Yet, other than simply grilled, what else is there to try?
                          Kudos to the hirno sofrito, but the dishwasher could have whipped that up to order.
                          The rest of the menu any short order cook can assemble.

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    jen kalb, examples of seafood prepared to order include Bourdeto / Μπουρδέτο, Psari Savoro / Ψάρι σαβόρο, Psari Plaki / Ψάρι πλακί, Seafood Gouvetsi / θαλασσινά γιουβέτσι, etc...


                1. re: johnk

                  Anything in particular I should consider ordering?

                  1. re: Gastronomos

                    I always order a tomato salad and seafood. The grilled octopus is always cooked to perfection. Their mousaka is top notch also. Everything is always above average...

                  2. re: johnk

                    Holy crap! I'd never heard of this place & just went on their website. The owner/chef is the long lost (at least to me) guy from my favorite place of 20+ years ago Roumeli Taverna. If he's cooking at anywhere near his place's original level (he sublet Roumeli for the latter years and it went downhill), it's well worth a try. Thanks for the link & recommendation.

                    1. re: Steve R

                      Roumeli was a great spot. My fav back in those days was Taygetos. Best kontosouvli in Astoria.

                    2. re: johnk

                      That looks great. Sadly I'll likely never make it to Astoria.

                      1. re: johnk

                        Based on your recommendation, I made it out to Loukoumi today.

                        They serve a basket of pita and bread. On the table is an olive oil that is mild in flavor, with a pleasant bitterness.

                        Had the mixed appetizers (meiitzanosalata, tzatziki, taramosalata, skordalia) - tzatziki was excellent, fresh, well balanced in flavor, tangy, one of the best I've had. Meiitzanosalata was also very good, excellent texture and fresh, but I would have liked a little smokiness similar to babaghanoush. Skordalia was very mild and could have used more garlic. Taramosalata was a little too fishy for my taste and not balanced.

                        fried calamari - really great flavor and enjoyed the breading but the calamari was tough. If it had been cooked less, would have been a very strong rendition.

                        loukaniko - excellent, housemade sausages that had great snap, great char and lovely meat funk. There were also citrus notes, perhaps orange peel. The sausages are a little salty but pair beautifully with tzatziki and pita.

                        grilled sea bass - Very fresh, a little bit salty. The lemon/olive oil drizzle they give you is delicious with the fish.

                        fried spearing - the star dish, highly recommended, delicious, lightly fried, fresh and clean fish flavor, delicious with generous squirts of fresh lemon juice.

                        finished with galaktoboureko, very generous portion, not too sweet, and a nice texture in the custard but the phyllo was a little chewy. It also needed more cinnamon. They dust the plate with cinnamon and you can dredge the custard though it but there wasn't enough.

                        All in all, a very solid experience, highlights were the tzatziki, loukaniko and the fried spearing.

                        My initial impression is that I'd place it above Taverna Kyclades (which I really dislike), Telly, Stamatis, and about the same as Agnanti with an edge to MP Taverna (even though it's not standard), because their bulgur salad and grandma's meatballs are so good.

                      2. is about as good as I have seen in Brooklyn.

                        1. As per the article in my OP, recently we visited Eliá in Bayridge with friends. Peak dining hour on a weekend.

                          This was a sad meal.

                          The entire place was a joke.

                          Service is horrible. I will not elaborate further on the worthless service.

                          Two bottles of Domaine Karydas Xinomavro 2010 $46each
                          kept us happy enough to be spending time together despite the poor choice of restaurant.

                          We ordered a Large
                          Beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta, kalamata olives, caperberries
                          Small 12.95 Large 15.95

                          What we got was a small bowl of small refrigerator cold "heirloom" tomatoes, and some other stuff thrown in. It was not dressed. I guess they are catering to a picky crowd of non-Greeks? Luckily no lettuce. And perhaps just as fortunate, and it's only saving grace, the bowl was room temperature. Unlike the salad bowls served in every other Greek joint around that are PIPING HOT!

                          Tiganita Kalamarakia 14
                          Fried calamari‏ & fried cauliflower, lemon tomato sauce, house made tartar sauce

                          I don't ever bother with fried calamari. It means nothing to me. But with company that ordered it, I tried it. Whatever. As usual.

                          We were rushed to clear the table because the entrees were ready, but we were not. Half of each of the appetizers went untouched.
                          The place was about half full, or half empty. What? Why? Rush?
                          The place emptied completely by the time we left.

                          For entrees we noticed the beauty of only a single line item described as:

                          Psari Stin Skara Market
                          Chefs selection whole fish, grilled vegetables, lemon potatoes

                          Nobody at our table bothered to order whatever the fish was that day. It bores me and so I avoid. It is beautiful to see that this place isn't a simple grilled fish place with some sides thrown about. The beauty ends there.

                          The disasters continue, though, with the rest of the entrees.

                          As per the article in my OP I tried the overly expensive

                          Thalasino Youvetsi $34
                          Shrimp, scallops, mussels & clams, baked in clay pot, saffron orzo, fennel

                          At $34 I would have expected something worth eating. I took a few bites. I would have asked the waiter to take it back to the kitchen where the unskilled day laborer assembling this crap could *place it where it belongs*, but in pleasant company, I just looked at the precooked and reheated disaster of overcooked dry Grilled scallops atop a flavorless (saffron???) orzo accompanied by two dry and tough shrimp, mussels that were fresh a few weeks ago (they were tiny mussel shells housing shriveled up tiny remnants of mussel meat), clams that were tiny and bland. A true disaster in every sense of the word.

                          Our dining companions ordered, but never finished:

                          Arni Youvetsi $29
                          Slow braised lamb shank, baked in clay pot, orzo, tomato & kefalotyri cheese

                          A local souvlaki/gyro joint on Long Island serves a better rendition for $10.

                          Frescos Bakaliaros Mai Skordolia $27
                          Chatham Cod pan fried, feta potato skordolia, roasted beets

                          He was trying to be polite, as we all were, and tried to eat it. He did not look pleased. The majority of it remained untouched.

                          And a special of the day of "Tile fish" with whatever accompaniments and whatever $35+ price tag.

                          We were cleared of our unfinished plates without question as to why we didn't eat the "food" and given dessert menus.

                          We declined and went to Omonia for some real Greek desserts and coffees etc.