Guys. I think I’ve just found one of my favorite places to eat in New York City. I mean my top 5 restaurants at any given time are probably like 60% pizza places knowing me, so it says something that a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant made the cut. ESPECIALLY because I never really crave or want or seek out Greek food. Maybe that’s because it’s the Texan in me who always wants cheesy Tex-Mex and big portions of meat? What DOES make me go gaga for Mediterranean food is good seafood, because that’s definitely something I can go nuts about and to me, Taverna Kyclades is the definition of that.
Located in Astoria, where there’s really a plethora of Greek food, Taverna Kyclades is a stand-out. I mean, yes, figuratively because it’s so darn good, but also literally because there is always a line or group of people standing outside waiting to get seated so it’s easy to spot when you’re on the street. That being said, this place is notorious for long wait times. I went on a Sunday night and had to wait a little over an hour, so I would say either be prepared for that or try and go during the weekday when it might (just might) be a little slower. I’ve heard that they hand out free wine for those waiting, but I can’t personally attest to that as my friends and I were checking out the street carnival going on at the time (and getting yelled at by sketchy carnies for trying to think logically about how to win a game mind you).
This was one of those places where I had made plans in advance to go to with friends, so there was plenty of build-up before eating there where I would look at its Yelp page every couple of days and see what people were recommending to get and how the food looked in the pictures. Yes, this is how I spend my free time. By the time I was actually there and ready to order, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted. Grilled octopus to start, peasant salad, and broiled scallops. Done, done, and done. Now let me bring you to the tragedy of the night. After placing our order, the waiter came back to inform me that they were out of scallops for the evening.
Out of all the items I had my heart set on, scallops were the ones I wanted the most. Just go check out the pictures of them on Yelp and you’ll see why…plus they’re one of my favorite foods. Ugh. I then decided to get the crab-stuffed shrimp, because if I couldn’t get the kind of seafood I wanted, I would get one kind stuffed with another kind.
They gave us free olive bread, which was warm and fresh (watch out, “fresh” is going to be the word of the day here) and our salad came out shortly after. If you’re wondering what “peasant salad” is, it’s essentially a Greek salad without the romaine lettuce. I guess peasants back in the day couldn’t afford lettuce? But who cares really, because let’s be honest…the lettuce is the most boring part of a Greek salad. We ordered a large size which was more than enough for 4 people to share. It came with two huge blocks of feta cheese on top, which was wonderfully salty and probably some of the best feta I’ve had. I’ve also never seen it served that way.
Then came our appetizer, the grilled octopus. Some people may be wary of it because of how tentacle-y it is or that it might be chewy, but man, this octopus was so tender. My knife cut through like butter! Really outstanding. And then there were the entrees. Each entree comes with your choice of side between rice, fried potatoes, beets, lemon potatoes, or horta (which are boiled greens). I went with the lemon potatoes. Both my dish and my side were HUGE. Giant shrimp, jam-packed with crab stuffing and that serving of potatoes could’ve served two people easily. Like I said before, the word of the day today is “fresh.” All the seafood was fresh and simply prepared and seasoned, which really shows you that they rely on the taste of the seafood itself to shine and win you over rather than needing to support it with any other things. I sampled my friend’s choices as well, which were the Mediterranean sea bass or branzino (they serve you the whole darn fish when you get this), the crab-stuffed sole, and salmon steak (holy cow was this one big) and I can say the same about all of these as well.
Everyone gets a free dessert at the end of your meal, which I think changes from time to time. We got some Greek yogurt with cherries, and while that sounds incredibly simple, I was in heaven. The yogurt was creamy and not too tart like some Greek yogurts are, and I don’t know how they made those cherries but they were divine. Soft, warm, and soaked in a delightful sauce. You’ve probably inferred this already, but all of the portions at this place are giant, so it’s probably best to go with a bunch of people to share and try a little bit of everything. It also makes the prices sting less. And another recommendation is to try and sit outside if you can. There’s space inside but it feels tighter and is definitely much louder.
And my last tip…while you can pay with credit card, you have to tip in cash. Except they don’t tell you this at all, it’s just mentioned on your receipt. I wonder what happens if a customer actually has no cash? Be prepared!
So if you only skimmed reading this or sped-read it or something, let me just sum it up for you plain and simple–THIS PLACE IS THE BOMB. One of the best meals I’ve had so far, and I can’t wait to go back. (I will get you scallops!!)
Peasant salad, grilled octopus, crab stuffed shrimp, lemon potatoes
33-07 Ditmars Blvd
New York, NY 11105