Greek restaurants have been a part of the fabric of Astoria for decades. Originally in the 20th century Greek restaurants took the industry by storm, as Greek immigrants began coming to the USA in large numbers1. Greeks are proud of their culinary tradition, and this pride translates into their diners and restaurants, most prevalent in densely ethnic neighborhoods like Astoria. Generally what distinguishes Greek restaurants and diners from each other is that Greek restaurants are more formal, with more traditional dishes on the menu. While Greek diners have traditional Greek breakfast and lunch dishes as well, they are more elaborate at Greek restaurants.


Image courtesy of Nicole Cavallo

While many remain traditional, serving the traditional Greek dishes, some have branched out, answering to the ever-changing desires of the Astoria public. The restaurant Dionysos (see right) remains traditional2. The menu has offerings from the Cyprus region of Greece, such as stuffed grape leaves and souvlaki. Cyprus is actually pretty unique as compared to other Greek regions- the Cyprean dialect is different from other dialects, sometimes strikingly so. As such, it is a unique fare served at Dionysos Restaurant. While it was empty when we arrived, the owners assured us that many Greeks visit restaurants such as theirs because they crave the tastes of home.


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Now it wouldn’t be properly discussing Greek restaurants and cuisine without a mention of seafood- Greece is directly on the Mediterranean! Seafood is a huge part of the fare at traditional Greek restaurants, such as this one pictured on the left, Taverna Kyclades. People can chow down on dishes like Garithes Yiouvetsi3, a shrimp dish with tomato sauce and feta cheese. Food stores around Astoria provide more than just traditional Greek ingredients, and so culinary experimentation takes place often. Greek restaurants are not known for their innovation, but that doesn’t mean every dish adheres perfectly the ones back home in Greece. The possibilities are endless, with all the recipes of Greek life and all the ingredient options of a multicultural city like New York. Now restaurants have the ability to mix and match, jazz up old dishes with new flairs given their new location.

Something to take note of is the change in residents. Many affluent people have now moved into the neighborhood- in fact, Astoria is now getting too expensive for some families. As a result of this affluence, prices are rising, even at Greek restaurants4. Despite this, Greek restaurants are still known for being priced well for their wide array of delicious food. Even one of the most expensive restaurants, Cavo Café Lounge, has dishes that don’t go beyond fifteen dollars5. This combination of culinary originality, for which Greek food is known, the homey atmosphere of most restaurants, and the low prices ensures that Greek restaurants remain popular among clientele, both regulars and visitors to the area.

Things have of course changed since the time this article was written: Astoria, A Greek Isle in the New York City Sea.6 As we noticed on our trip there, not everything is Greek anymore. Indian and Sikh people have moved in, and while Astoria remains business-wise very Greek, the residents are no longer- after all, many Greeks have moved out to Long Island. So who are the customers at these Greek restaurants? It varies. Some may be Greeks, but others may be in search of a regular hamburger. Restaurants have had to adjust to this sort of thing7. Now, this isn’t entirely unfortunate. An influx of new blood is just what Astoria needed for its economy to flourish, and the restaurants stay open. You can still walk down a street and find a good place to get souvlaki. Just don’t expect that there won’t also be fries on the menu.


Author: Frances Claer Raybaud