If you’re at all curious about the state of Greek food in NYC, or want to learn about the food culture that surrounded me during my life in Queens, watch this video from Zagat featuring Michael Psilakis, chef and owner of MP Taverna in the Ditmars section of Astoria, NY.
As I mentioned in the Welcome to Bridgetown Bites post, I lived many years and started my food writing career in Astoria, Queens. By the way, the neighborhood is home to two magnificent bridges—the Hell Gate Bridge and the Triboro Bridge—intersecting the waterfront at Astoria Park (I find similarities between the St. John’s Bridge at Cathedral Park in Portland and the Triboro Bridge in Astoria Park). Those of you who know me are aware that I spent the whole of my life in Astoria in the Ditmars area; this video brings back a lot of good memories (Artopolis, Plaza Meat Market and Stamatis were literally 2-3 blocks from my apartment).
One of the first Greek cookies I ever tasted in Astoria was melomakarona—ironically, it was from an Italian bakery (Rose & Joe’s). I’ve had the ones from Artopolis, and they are excellent—sweet, earthy, nutty. I think when it cools down I’ll try to make them myself.
And Michael Psilakis is right about octopus being the “chicken of the Greek restaurant.” It’s on every menu at the local tavernas, and consequentially locals have virtually no tolerance for badly prepared octopus (while I’m no longer a local, I do not have much interest in eating poorly cooked octopus anywhere). MP Taverna makes one of my favorite versions in the neighborhood—it’s tender and meaty with a tasty external char (tentacle tips are often crispy), and I love the chickpea salad and yogurt bed he uses to support the octopus. I always order it when I’m there (along with the dumplings with lamb sausage). Not far is Taverna Kyclades—they make a much simpler version (cooked on the grill and served with olive oil and lemon), and it’s also very good.
Here’s to finding good Greek food in Portland.