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Tuesday / July 17.
HomeOutingsJust over the bridge: A culinary voyage to Greco Queens

Just over the bridge: A culinary voyage to Greco Queens

Greek Queens is right over the bridge.

 

We were chatting over breakfast eggs (including the bagel upgrade) with the manager of the Palace Restaurant on East 57th Street about things Greek. He mentioned that he was going back to Greece for a visit maybe tonight, maybe not. He was not entirely sure of the specifics planned by his wife.

We mentioned that we were going on a day trip to Astoria for an authentic Greek food experience and did he have any recommendations.

Twenty minutes later the manager returned with two personal favorites: The Original  (as distinguished from imposters) Stamatis Restaurant and Titan (pronounced “teaton”) Foods.  (The cheese counter is pictured at top.)

Astoria in Queens is a Greek neighborhood just over the bridge.

Titan Foods is the go-to Greek supermarket.

Just over the bridge from the East Side.

Astoria is a short haul over the 59th Street Bridge and is thus easy to get to from the East Side.

Travel by cab or car are eminently doable, although, of course, finally docking in Astoria could be a New York challenge.

For those more adventurous, Astoria is about a fifteen minute N train subway ride. Leave from either the 59th Street and 5th Avenue stop or 59th and Lexington.  The train rumbles up 31st Street in Queens and terminates at Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria… Greco Queens.

By the way, the other terminus for the N train is Coney Island.  With 45 stops, it should have baggage and sleeper cars.

The bus goes there, too.

The other public alternative is the 101 Bus (to uninitiated East Siders, buses are bigger than cabs and tall enough to stand up in) leaving from 2nd Avenue and E. 60th Street. The advantage of the bus is that it offers a tourist’s experience of seeing a number of interesting Queens neighborhoods.

The Original Stamatis is the wrong destination if the object is an intimate dining experience.

The place is one of the oldest Greek Restaurants in Astoria and, as an understatement, a lot of money hasn’t been spent on décor. On the walls are old murals depicting various miscellaneous Aegean scenes. One mural depicts a pod of frolicking dolphins. The place is austere, all business.

On the left, after walking in, is a counter filled with beautifully displayed prepared meals and other offerings, including a counter of tempting desserts.

The Stamatis is big, noisy, and surgically lit. This, as was the commentary on décor, is observation, not criticism.

Many of the patrons at the bigger tables are large family groups enjoying good times.  Both big and small tables were fully occupied, many of attendees obviously regulars. A lot of them, I suspect, were reliving memories of Yiayia’s cooking.

Helpful service at the Original Stamatis

Servers are veteran waiters and waitresses who are attentive, efficient and patient with amateurs unfamiliar with the various Greek offerings.

The Original Stamatis is, as my Grecian partner in crime said, the real thing, the genuine article. In a word, ”authentic.”

Vegetarians are put on notice.

Admittedly, I am, to put it charitably, not an adventurous eater. So, I stuck with the Greek salad and the chicken kabob; my partner had the moussaka. Both were good.

The Original Stamatis is, as my Grecian partner in crime said, the real thing, the genuine article. In a word, ”authentic.”

Other dining options included bronzino, gelactoboureko, and papoutsaki. Uh, huh.

One of the most, if not the most, popular items on the menu, is the grilled octopus. I cannot bring myself to eat a creature that propelled itself across the sea bottom by dint of tentacles and suction cups.  I assume that I am not alone with this take. And I can guess what Leviticus would say.

In addition, there are, of course, a number of other available and eagerly consumed variations on the fish and sea creatures theme. Lamb, in various forms, is also featured.

And dessert is free.

Will deliver orders over $250 to Manhattan

By the way, Stamatis will deliver orders over $250 to Manhattan.

Would I return to Stamatis? The answer is an unqualified, big yes. It provides high quality ethnic eats and an overall experience worth the easy trip from the East Side.

The Original Stamatis Restaurant: 29-09 23rd Ave, Astoria, New York, 11105, (718) 721-4507.

 

Titan Foods is the go-to Greek supermarket in Astoria for Greek food and other possibilities. Over 80 percent of the inventory is imported from the homeland.

Big, well-lit, and clean, Titan offers a gigantic selection of principally native offerings. Notable is the helpfulness of the staff that is, like at the Original Stamatis, forgiving of the grossly ignorant who shamelessly doesn’t know beef kokkonisto from kolokithakia gemista.

There is a food bar with extensive prepared possibilities. The woman running the bar, I understand, is happy to share recipes, explain differences and translate.

The bakery in the store, with a line up of custardy, lemony, and honey rich pastries is another fine stop. It is hard to resist the temptation to dip into the bag for a cookie, or two, or…. during the ride back.

Stock up for the trip back to Manhattan

In short, the food bar and the bakery are great places to secure dinners and calories to bring back to Manhattan.

A coffee counter with spanakopita is there for quick visits and as a break from generally lurking about the place.

Greek Astoria, Queens, is just over the bridge from the East Side.

Imported Greek olive oil at Titan Foods.

Note aisle after aisle of Greek imports, including a serious array of olive oils, cheeses (eight of the Feta variety from different places), and olives. In fact there are great vats of different olives. Sampling before buying is encouraged.

Jellies, jars of fruit, honeys, egg dye, coffees, spices, nuts, beers in a multiplicity of cans, packages and jars plus beaucoup other stuff brought over on the boat fill the aisles.

Of course there are counters with custom meat cuts, sausages, cheeses, and double smoked fish.

Evidently one popular non-food item is the olive bar soap and Greek shampoo.

Titan Foods is a neighborhood Greek market multiplied by 100.  It deserves serious exploration.

Like Stamatis, a visit to Titan is a quick and rewarding day trip.

By the way, Titan advertises free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. for orders over $150.

 

Titan Foods: 25-56 31st Street, Astoria, New York, 11102, (718) 626-7771.

 

 

 

Robert Joselow

Robert Joselow

Robert Joselow is a retired attorney living in Washington, D.C., and Palm Beach.
Robert Joselow