During the early 20th century there was a large influx of Greek immigrants1. With them, they brought the kaffenion. Kaffenions are coffee houses that Greek immigrants gathered in to play cards, verse each other in backgammon, and discuss politics- it was a Greek social center. These coffee houses grew into the Greek diners we all love today. Greeks have always had an ethnic niche in diners. Since the 40’s most diners have been owned by Greeks. About 2/3 of diners in the city are Greek2. Greek diners serve traditional Greek foods, such as pastichio; moussaka; spinach pie; souvlaki; and gyros as well as American classics, such as hamburgers; chicken fingers; and french fries. Astoria is a Greek ethnic enclave. It’s the heart of Greek life in Queens. There are several Greek diners in Astoria such as: Mike’s Diner, the Neptune Diner, Tasty’s, and the Bel Aire Diner.

During our trip we spoke to Costas Pavlakos, the owner of Mike’s Diner. Mike’s Diner was established in the 1920’s. This diner, which started off as a wagon, is now located on 31st St. This diner has been passed down to family members for generations. At the end of our Astoria tour we got to experience the Greek hospitality Mike’s is known for and try some of its great souvlaki. Mike’s serves classic Greek Dishes such as pastichio (layers of macaroni with seasoned ground beef, topped with bechamel cream sauce and oven baked3); moussaka (layers of eggplant, potatoes and seasoned ground beef, topped with bechamel cream sauce and oven baked3), and spanakopita (spinach pie with feta cheese and spinach leaf baked to a golden brown in phyllo dough3).


Image taken by author

The Neptune Diner is located on Astoria Blvd. It offers several Greek dishes such as: moussaka (a Greek dish made of ground lamb, eggplant, and  tomatoes, with cheese on top5), spinach pie, pastichio, pastas, souvlaki (meat and vegetables grilled on a skewer usually served in a pita5), gyros, and a greek antipasto featuring taramasalata (a Greek dip or spread made from puréed salted fish roe, bread or potato, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings5), feta cheese, spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, hard boiled egg, anchovies, and peppers. The cover page of their menu feature Neptune, the Greek god of the sea4. Neptune’s Diner was selected by Daily News as the Best Diner in New York City4.


Image courtesy of Queens Diners

The Bel Aire Diner is located on 21st St. The Bel Aire was established in 1997 by “Archie” Dellaportas. Archie emigrated from Cephalonia at the age of 18 in 1972. He bought the Bel Aire for $350,0006. It serves typical Greek dishes such as spinach pie, gyro, souvlaki, pastichio, saganaki (a Greek dish consisting of breaded or floured cheese fried in butter, served as an appetizer5), stuffed grape leaves, pita bread and tzatziki sauce, and moussaka7.


Image courtesy of yelp.com

Tasty’s is located on Ditmars Ave. The Greek Corner on its menu features gyros, souvlaki, and spinach pie8.


Image courtesy of tastysdinernyc.com

Author: Nicole Cavallo