My Big Fat Greek Tour of Astoria

Souvlaki

In an effort to recreate my two week trip to Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens, Greece, this Brooklynite headed to Astoria, Queens to indulge in her romantic fantasies of all things Greek. And while there may be no endless white sandy beaches in Astoria, there are some delicious treasures to be found just five stops from Manhattan on the N train.

SouvlakiOur expedition began right off the 30th Avenue (Grand Ave) station. We quickly discovered the best way to explore the neighborhood’s warm, welcoming, and seriously tasty Greek culture was simply to wander. First stop was Ya Ya’s Bakery (2846 31st St, 718.932.3113)—savorably the highlight of the trip—directly across the street under the elevated subway. Ya Ya’s is a non-descript little bakery from the outside, but inside, the sticky sweet smells of traditional pastries and rich, hearty scents of fresh baklava straight from the wood-burning oven “like they used to 100 years ago” keep you lingering and nibbling for long (unhealthy) amounts of time. A mix of mini cheese and spinach pies ($3) and nine small baklava ($3) will set you back the same as a venti latte at Starbucks.

Tony's Souvlaki Opa! in AstoriaDirectly next door is Tony’s Souvlaki Opa! (2844 31st St, 718.728.3638, opa-souvlaki.com). Bearing the tagline “Famous Greek since 1969,” Opa! boasts everything from homemade pork and lamb souvlaki to dolmadaki (small grape leaves). Inside the tiny eatery, Greek flags adorn the ceiling alongside paintings of each angle of the famed Mykonos windmills. And for no additional cost, the cook will pose for a photo opp while slicing lamb off the shank.

Needing a (short) break from food, we walked up the bustling street, passing the Olympiakos soccer fan club, est. 1987 and then the Hermes Travel Agency, which conjured up thoughts of a dorky Toula Portokalos from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” But sorry ladies, there was no handsome Aidan in sight.

While not open on a Saturday afternoon, a Sunday jaunt to one of Astoria’s most popular Greek Orthodox churches is certainly in order. Pray on your own, take in a service, or simply have a look around at the high-ceilings and intricate stained glass at the St. Demetrios Cathedral, Greek Hellenic Orthodox (3011 30th Dr, 718.728.718).

greek marketFor those inspired to create your own Greek-themed party, start with the protein appetizers: meats from Akropolis Meat Market (3104 30th Ave, 718.728.1760) (heck, the meat is so fresh skinned piglets even hang in the window—if that tickles your fancy) and octopus from Best of the Sea (3101 30th Ave, 718.777.3706) fishmonger. You’re also dared to try the poulpe en sauce á l’ail, better known as garlic-flavored octopus—head to Greek House Foods (3220 30th Ave, 718.545.5252) for that and many more gourmet Greek treats including Easter egg-colored, hard-shelled candied almonds ($7.00/lb). For fresh produce for the party crudités, a great place is Elliniki Agora Fruit & Vegetables (3212 30th Ave, 718.728.0751), a stand that’s half outside just like the place we went for fresh fruit after a beach day in Mykonos.

For serving pieces and all sorts of hard-to-find goodies, Euro Market (3042 31st St, 718.545.5569) next to the St. Demetroios Cathedral, is your one-stop shop. For my party, guests will drink all beverages from blue and white striped espresso mugs and saucers that say “Yasou!” (“God Saves” for when you toast) on the sides. European country flags fly from the ceilings, but the Greek’s blue and white cross dominate the décor. Traditional Greek music will prompt dancing down the isles on your hunt for Greek beer (Mythos is the way to go), while you pass jars of unidentified fruits and boxes upon boxes of frozen phylo dough.

My party is planned, the imaginary table is set, and the festivities will commence on March 25th, The Greek National Anniversary, if I can wait that long amidst my dreams of Greece.

Farishto, Astoria!

How to get to Astoria:

Take the N train from Lexington Av station heading Uptown / to Astoria; just five stops (mostly above ground) and get off at 30 Avenue (Grand Av). Exit near intersection of 31st St and 30th Ave. Total travel time approximately 20 minutes. Print out and bring the map below with you to help guide you to the hotspots.

KPICASA_GALLERY(MyBigFatGreekTourOfAstoria)

Map of Featured Locations


View offManhattan.com: My Big Fat Greek Tour of Astoria in a larger map

Photos: wEnDaLicious, Silvie Snow-Thomas

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Comment(13)

  • Avatar
    Stephanie
    February 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Euro Market is great for all things Euro (and beer), but they’re more slanted towards the Balkan and Central European countries. Titan Foods, on 31st Street between 30th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard, is THE place for all things Greek. They even sell Orthodox icons and soccer jerseys!

  • Avatar
    cher
    February 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    What a well researched story Sylvie. You had me at the pastries! They look so yum! And…mini cheese and spinach pies!Thanks for reminding us that Queens is a is a borough to be visited. Cavo sounds great – I’m going to bring my Greek friend there when she comes to visit.

    p.s. I’ll pass on the Octopus, but, I’ll take a plate of grape leaves.

  • Avatar
    Bret
    March 8, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Is nice to see some good articles like this one, thank you.

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    January 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    […] the most culturally diverse county in the country. When we think of Astoria, we are quick to think Greek (or of a certain Czech Beer Garden), but the stretch of Steinway Street between 28th Avenue and […]

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    May 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    […] Astoria | cavoastoria.com Award-winning chef, Richard Farnabe, runs the kitchen in this sprawling Greek restaurant. In addition to the dining and bar space indoors, they boast a large multilevel outdoor […]

  • Avatar
    Nataly Johnson
    October 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    LOUKOUMI TAVERNA If you searching for real Greek seafood and meze , Loukoumi taverna restaurant 45-07 ditmars blvd astoria ny 11105 718-626-3200
    toloukoumi.com
    tavernagreek.com
    restaurantsgreek.com

  • Avatar
    Nataly Johnson
    October 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    LOUKOUMI TAVERNA If you searching for real Greek seafood and meze , Loukoumi taverna restaurant 45-07 ditmars blvd astoria ny 11105 718-626-3200
    toloukoumi.com
    tavernagreek.com
    restaurantsgreek.com

  • Avatar
    Andreas Andreou
    November 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Loukoumi Greek taverna seafood restaurant in Astoria NY We went to this wonderful restaurant the other nights with our friends who had highly recommended it. Once inside we were warmly greeted by the owner and staff. The restaurants decor is warm. We had ordered an assortment of appetizers and three entrees to share. Everything we ordered was amazing. My favorite was a red snapper fish which was prepared grilled with a side order of horta, one of the best fish dishes i have ever eaten. The meal ended with an assortment of Greek deserts – a cornmeal cake dipped in honey, greek yogurt with walnuts drizzled in honey and a file pastry filled with a creamy custard.

    Our whole experience was awesome and would definitely go back and i highly would recommend Loukoumi Greek taverna restaurant to others.

  • Avatar
    Galanospa
    January 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    By far Loukoumi is the best Greek seafood restaurant,
    I usually go there for lunch with my parents when they’re in Astoria, but it’s also suitable for a romantic dinner.
    One of my favorite Greek restaurants in Astoria NY,
    Awesome atmosphere, service and of course food.
    I had Greek salad and grilled salmon with lemon potatoes. You can tell that their food is super fresh and their seasoning is so perfect. Obviously I finished my meal with Greek yogurt.
    I highly recommend Loukoumi Tavern,

  • Avatar
    Lucy
    January 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Agree!!!
    I’ve been to this, Greek restaurant, 3 times already,
    By far is the best Greek restaurant, west of Greece!!!
    I highly recommend, Loukoumi Taverna.

  • Avatar
    Alexcy69
    October 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Loukoumi Greek Restaurant!!!
    This wonderful Greek restaurant, is officially my favorite restaurants in Astoria NY. The food is fresh, and very satisfying.

  • Avatar
    Maria Boutsis
    February 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Geia sas, good work,guys. Take a look at my Greek recipes site, if you’d like: http://www.fruitandcake.com
    Na eiste kala.

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