So this past weekend, my friends and I had a grand idea. Let’s go eat Greek food and then marathon episodes of the old Nickelodeon show Are You Afraid of the Dark? This (amazing) plan was conjured up on Halloween night because two people had just moved into a new apartment in Astoria and were raving about the numerous Greek food options around them and because we were all being nostalgic about the show that used to give us the creeps when we were little. Was the Greek food near them really that fantastic? Was Are You Afraid of the Dark? still as scary as it was when we were little? We decided to set aside a Sunday afternoon to find out both.
Queens, and Astoria at that, is extremely diverse, but the neighborhood of Astoria is known for its tons of Greek restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and churches. The only time I’ve eaten Greek food in the area before this was when I ate at Taverna Kyclades, and that was one of the best meals I’ve had in New York City, so I was eager to try more.
We decided to go to a place called Gregory’s, also known as 26 Corner Taverna, as it was a little bit off the beaten path and not as populated with tourists. It has a reputation of being the hole-in-the-wall spot that offers just as high quality food as all the other tavernas nearby.
The restaurant isn’t huge but there are two sections (took us a little bit to realize that no, that wasn’t a mirror). When you visit, you’ll probably see people relaxing and sitting on the chairs outside or lounging and hanging out with friends inside. Basically, Gregory’s is one of those places where you never feel rushed or like you have to hurry out. You can enjoy a long, leisurely, European style-meal where you’ll probably have to ask for your check if you want to leave. I’m pretty sure we spent about two hours here.
The decor inside is charming with checkered tablecloths with maps of Greece placed on top and little touches like giant shells on ledges and a light fixture with a ship’s helm. You’re served a basket of bread, which you can dip in the olive tapenade spread they give you or the olive oil provided at the tables.
Thankfully, everyone in my party agreed that it would be best if we ordered a bunch of things to split. We chose mainly from the appetizer portion of the menu, getting the Greek salad, zucchini patties, grilled octopus, fried peppers stuffed with cheese, beeftekia with lemon potatoes as the side, and an order of rice. It didn’t take long for our dishes to start coming out one by one, and each time was subsequently followed by ooh’s and ahh’s from our table as we were impressed by how mouthwatering everything looked.
The salad was served with a big, salty block of feta on top of oiled and peppered onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The only other time I’ve gotten served a Greek salad with feta served this way instead of crumbled was at Taverna Kyclades, and I have to say I’m a big fan.
The zucchini patties…I almost want to wait until the end of my post to talk about these to save the best for last, but I won’t keep you waiting. They were ASTOUNDING and unlike any other zucchini patties or cakes I’ve had before. Once you cut through the crisp, browned exterior, you get into this gooey, soft interior that is just heavenly. Fluffy, moist, light…Gregory’s takes zucchini patties to the next level.
Grilled octopus was my must-have menu item. I just love the Greek preparation of it with the combination of charred bits and buttery meat. With dishes like this, you don’t need anything besides a squirt of some lemon juice because it’s fantastic stand-alone and that’s always a good sign for seafood.
The stuffed peppers were another showstopper at our table. Grilled pieces of pepper with heaps of broiled, melty cheese on top. DIVINE. It was kind of funny because at the end of our meal, we realized we had room for one last dish so we were trying to decide whether we wanted to get the zucchini patties or stuffed peppers again. If you must know, we solved this problem like children by having a blind vote where we each held up either one finger for the peppers or two for the patties. The patties almost unanimously won, but the fact that the peppers made it to the vote says a lot.
Then there was the beeftekia, also called bifteki, which is seasoned a ground beef patty, kind of like a burger patty but with Mediterranean flavoring, with traditional lemon potatoes served as big wedges, softened by the lemon juice. I feel like we had a really nice assortment of dishes from veggies to meat, but it would’ve been nice to try one of their fish options like the fried whiting or bakaliaro. There’s always next time!
At the end of our meal we were served a complimentary dessert, and I’m not sure what it’s called or really how to describe it. It was chewy and had a nice cinnamon flavor, and there were exactly six pieces for each person at our table, which was lovely of them to do for us. Unless, of course, that’s how much they always give, in which case it was perfect on our end to have six people. 🙂
We were all pleasantly stunned when we realized how much everyone would have to pay. Can you take a guess? It turned out to be only $17 a person with tip, which I think is a fantastic deal for the amount of food we got and the quality.
I’ll leave you with two pieces of advice. You must try those zucchini patties, and if you ever happen to watch Are Your Afraid of the Dark?, you need to watch the episode called “The Tale of Dead Man’s Float.” Trust me on both.
Large Greek salad, zucchini patties, grilled octopus, fried peppers stuffed with cheese, beeftekia with lemon potatoes, rice
2602 23rd Ave
Astoria, NY 11105