Guide to NYC's 10 Best Greek Restaurants And Tavernas

Enrichetta L Frezzato

Over twenty years ago, New York was opening up to a idea of Greek fare, starting to offer foodies a novel range of regional dishes from the Mediterranean. Today a large number of Greek restaurants inhabit all areas of the city, from Astoria to Brooklyn, attracting diners with the flavours of moussaka, souvlaki, and perfectly grilled fish and seafood. Among the innovative and authentic Greek restaurants, here are our top 10.

1. Agnanti

Restaurant, Greek

This Aegean-style taverna is heated by a fireplace during the winter, while on long summer nights the view over Astoria Park gives Agnanti’s guests a breath of fresh air. Nestled in the heart of Astoria, the NYC neighbourhood with the largest Greek population, Agnanti was founded in 2002 and now stands out among the many restaurants and cafes that dot the area. With a range of dishes based on different regional traditions, the menu also includes plates of the Turkish cuisine adopted by the Greek community in ancient Constantinople, like pastroumali and bourek. Must-try Greek specialties here include garides liana, shrimp in a rich lemony sauce, and the tender chicken souvlaki.

2. Pylos

Restaurant, Greek

Intriguing Greek food
© YiRan Ye/Flickr
Hundreds of Greek clay pots and vases hang from the ceiling supported by partly stone, partly white and blue walls; the atmosphere unmistakably Greek, and that’s the vibe at Pylos. Imprinting a modern twist on the classics of Greek cuisine, the menu sprinkles the full flavours of extra virgin olive oil, lemon, fresh cheese, and creamy dips on its chicken, lamb, pork, and seafood based mains. What’s more, clay pots feature down on the tables as well as up above diners’ heads; for example in saganaki tou merakli, an appetizer of three varieties of melted cheese.

3. Yefsi

Restaurant, Greek, Mediterranean

On opening Yefsi, chef and owner Christos Christou brought with him experience accumulated during years of working in top-notch Greek restaurants in NYC, as well as the culinary identity of his native Cyprus. Located in the Upper East Side, with its and elegant cherry wood furnishing Yefsi offers a refined, stylish environment and home-style Greek cuisine. Among a choice of cheese and seafood based delicacies, octopus temptingly appears in various mezedes, like octapodi and stifado; while mains alternate mouth-watering meat and fish dishes in a rich menu infused with the tastes and smells of the Mediterranean.

4. Eliá

Restaurant, Greek, Mediterranean

On entering Eliáone could feel transported into the relaxed seaside atmosphere of a typical tavern on an Aegean island. Blue shutters and white walls provide the dominant hues, while warming tones of the dark wood and wall lanterns complete the picture. Located in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bay Ridge, Eliá was founded in 1998, with owners Pete and Christina Lekkas keen to introduce locals to the flavours of Greek tradition. The aromas of pine nuts and olives, the intense taste of feta and kefalogravierablend in to season the many appetizers. Two absolute favourites, the moussaka and the thalasino youvetsi, prepared with shellfish and baked in a clay pot with saffron, orzo, and fennel, stand out among the varied choice of entrées.

5. Taverna Kyclades

Restaurant, Greek

Taverna Kyclades is among the best Greek restaurants in the area. With a second branch in Manhattan, Ardian Skenderi’s restaurant certainly has proved its worth, its original Astoria venue is recurrently nominated as one of the best places in NYC to taste Greek style seafood cuisine. The restaurant serves an unexpectedly wide range of fish, most of which can be consumed either grilled or fried. The menu is complemented by a selection of classic appetizers and salads, some meat dishes, and a wine list featuring some very interesting Greek options.

6. Thalassa

Bar, Market, Restaurant, Greek, Seafood, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Gluten-free

From its historical use as a warehouse for Greek olives and cheese, to the marble bar plane imported from the island of Thasos, from the wooden tables of Mykonos to the rarely extensive wine cellar including some true Greek gems; everything at Thalassa speaks of its Mediterranean roots. Situated in TRiBeCa, the restaurant is the elegant yet unpretentious, providing a high-end fish and seafood dining experience. Rotating around the fresh fish market idea, Thalassa showcases an impressive range of imported fish alongside a selection of the local day’s catch. Featuring some appetizing cheese and fish based starters and a dedicated cheese section, the menu is a sea feast bound to delight.

7. Estiatorio Milos

Restaurant, Bar, Seafood, Mediterranean, Greek

With its New York branch accompanied by a series of other locations across the county, Estiatorio Milos has established itself as an institution when it comes to Greek fare in the US. The stylish and refined ambience elegantly accommodates white-clothed tables, canvas sun umbrellas and a marble ice bar, where all manners of fruits du mer are laid for guests to pick before being prepared according to the traditional recipes of the Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Savoured with the notes of olive oil, lemon, and capers, mains come with sides including the traditional tzatziki and skordalia, a thick purée based on garlic and almonds. Among the delightful choice of desserts, karidopita, a walnut cake served with ice cream, is a highlight.

8. Kefi

Restaurant, Greek, Mediterranean, Vegan, Gluten-free, Vegetarian

Kefi, New York
Image Courtesy of Kefi
Originally a tiny nook in the Upper West Side, Kefi was the result of the joint efforts of acclaimed chef Michael Psilakis and leading NYC restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. After two busy years the restaurant moved to new premises and can now accommodate, to the delight of many, a significantly larger number of guests. In a homely yet refined environment, just a few blocks away from its previous location, each of the two dining rooms at Kefi bears a distinctive character. Since the move, the menu has retained the rustic flavours of the old Kefi’s signature dishes, incorporating some new additions alongside a brunch and a lunch option. With meatballs (tsoutsoukakia) voted the best in New York, grilled octopus and chicken souvlaki among the most appreciated appetizers; the delectable mains include grilled branzino and pulled pasta with braised rabbit and graviera cheese.

9. Avra Estiatorio

Restaurant, Greek, Seafood, Mediterranean, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free

A charming Mediterranean village atmosphere invites NYC foodies to take a seat in the airy courtyard or in the sophisticated setting of Avra Estiatorio’s indoor dining room, with its wooden beams and cream draperies. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the restaurant specialises in fish and seafood, placed on display over ice and ready for diners to make their pick before being taken to the kitchen to reappear grilled and sprinkled with simple oil and lemon, according to Greek traditional. The choice of freshly caught fish is impressive, ranging from American snapper and Maine lobster to imported tsipoura and lavraki. In the mezedes section of the menu, skewers of Chilean sea bass make for tasty Chilean souvlaki, while the grilled halibut over dill spanakorizois a must among the entrées.

10. Periyali

Restaurant, Greek

The idea behind the opening Periyali was to respond to the request for authentic Greek fare in NYC, along the lines of other restaurants offering traditional regional cuisines from Europe that had started to populate the street of the city at the time; it was a pioneer. In a soft whitewashed setting, imbued with suffused light and strewn with flower pots, what diners will experience at Periyali is a combination of traditional home cooking, family recipes, and polished presentations. The much praised simple ingredients and tender meats, especially the stewed rabbit and the grilled chicken, complete the picture of this perfect culinary feast.

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