Where to Eat the Best Greek Food in New York City

Thalassa in Tribeca
Thalassa in Tribeca
I dip a piece of pita bread into some skordalia and then into some taramosalata. It’s ok in that, “I’ve eaten this a million times” kind of way. I’m still waiting for the horta, which I usually find overcooked and mushy like hospital food. Will I enjoy the moussaka? I’m not so sure. I have to admit, I’m just not into the old-world Greek restaurants in Astoria, the traditional tavernas, and I can’t wait to get back to Manhattan where, for a while now, chefs (thankfully) have taken this ancient food and given it a modern translation. Blasphemous, I know. The Greek gods probably aren’t happy with me, but I prefer Greek food the way I like my friends: thoughtful and creative. Which is how I’ve come up with this list of the best Greek restaurants in New York (in my humble opinion). Thanks to chefs like Michael Psilakis, going out for Greek food is NOT like going to Yia yia’s house for dinner; it’s full of surprises, a reason to visit the following.

36 W. 52nd, east of 6th Ave/212-582-6900

I wrote about Anthos in a New York Daily News article, and I still hold the same sentiments. Michael Psilakis is one talented chef, and though he’s Greek and learned from his family, he’s also added a mastery of cooking unfounded at other Greek restaurants—his very own translation. Try the smoked octopus with fennel and lemon confit, onion soup with lemon braised pork belly, baby halibut with yogurt shellfish broth and for dessert, the ouzo baba.

250 Park Avenue South at 20th St/212-995-0242

This location has been the home to so many different restaurants over the years, but it seems content with its Greek/Mediterranean incarnation. I’ve never seen fondue at a Greek restaurant, but it’s served here with kefalograviera cheese and metaxa brandy. There are good meat dishes, yes, and even vegetarian options (mushroom gnocchi) that anyone would enjoy, but I’d stick with the seafood: for appetizers, try red snapper ceviche or terra cotta shrimp. For an entrée, the pan seared halibut with turmeric emulsion or the grilled swordfish with garlic and paprika sauce are two good choices.

35 W. 20th east of 6th Ave/212-463-7890

Periyali was the first Greek restaurant in New York that showed diners there’s more to Greek cuisine than the usual suspects. Still going strong with its message since 1987, Periyali serves updated Greek food in an unassuming setting. At lunch I enjoyed grilled calamari with oregano oil, beet root with garlic sauce and charcoal grilled filet mignon shish kebab. For dessert try the Alexander the Great Cocktail, with Metaxa seven star brandy, crème de cacao and cream.

128 E. 7th St, west of Avenue A/212-473-0220

Pylos has been holding fort in the East Village for over six years and unlike many other area restaurants, it’s definitely staying put. Although the food still stands by its rustic Greek roots, there are definitely some surprises on the menu, including the addition of champagne in the traditional avgolemono, lemon egg soup, and the Cretan-honey braised lamb shank.

179 Franklin St/between Greenwich & Hudson/212-941-7661

Physically-speaking, this is probably one of the largest restaurants in New York and even more exciting they have 5,000 bottles of wine in their cellar. That alone (well, if you’re an oenophile) is worth visiting. But the food lives up to the space: try the lamb shank ravioli appetizer or the scallops wrapped in kaitafi, then head straight to seafood for your entrée, like the Hawaiian lemon snapper fillet.