Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Back in Old Astoria with Stamatis' Greek Gems
Back in NY last week, I finally finally had the chance to visit my beloved Astoria, even if very briefly. Truth is that I haven't had much time for anything lately, as PDX Food Baby has been keeping me quite busy. No matter, there's always time for yummy food adventures and I promise to make more time for the documentation of it in the future.
As Dan and I had a lovely evening in Astoria last weekend, we remarked at how interesting it was that in all our years of living there, we've never eaten at Stamatis Restaurant. Both in the mood to experience traditional Greek food, we ventured over and met longtime Astoria cronies Meg & Tom across the street for a quick drink, as well. An awesome evening ensued, and it all felt comfortably nostalgic. Next time, we'll bring the baby to soak up Astoria's positive vibes too - but now, more about Stamatis:
Exemplifying "old Astoria" at its best, Stamatis is everything that the original Astoria stood for - family connections, multi-cultruralism and excellent food. I couldn't help but get enveloped by its warm welcoming atmosphere and the endearing demeanor of everyone that worked there. Sure it was our first time visiting and even after months of setting foot in Astoria, we couldn't help but feel comfortable and truly at home.
Since it was the day before Easter and folks were in a festive mood, Stamatis was absolutely bustling and filled with great energy. It on the late side for us Portlanders (after 8:30 p.m.) so we were pleasantly surprised by how many people filled Stamatis' large dining room. Folks of all ages chowed down happily and enjoyed great conversation (in all languages), indulging in all the beautiful dishes that flew from the busy kitchen on to their tables. It was a truly a fun sight to see and added to the whole experiences. We reveled in just observing it all - and the delicious food was an extra bonus.
The best part about eating in a traditional Greek restaurant is all the fabulous meze (or small plates). So naturally that's exactly what Dan and I chose in order to get a little sampling of everything we so dearly miss about Astoria and Greek culture.
Saganaki Cheese - We love love love this fried kefalograviera cheese that's the ultimate Greek food indulgence. It's a fun appetizer to share and tides you over quite well until the next meze arrives. This one had a crunchy crust and a melty middle that was all sorts of salty, gooey and of course delicious.
Zucchini Croquettes - Oh my, how I've missed these! Stamatis' version was fantastic, we both agreed, and contained many fresh herbs such as oregano and mint, which made it even a little palate cleansing. Big chunks of yummy feta cheese were interspersed into these oblong gems and they melted beautifully, producing the perfect earthy/salty bite.
Grilled Seafood Platter - Seafood is the specialty here and we couldn't refuse a medley of all sorts of grilled goodness such as lobster claws, stuffed shrimp, stuffed clams, swordfish and squid. I loved the beautiful charred crust on everything and as people say, "buttah and olive oil make it bettah," which was very much the case here. Cutting all this richness with peppery dandelion greens was the way to go.
Galaktoboureko - How could we refuse a tantalizing portion of homemade Greek cheese pie (aka Galaktoboureko)?! This usually comes complimentary at the end of each traditional Greek dinner, and Stamatis certainly didn't disappoint. Their version was truly excellent - silky, custardy with a hint of cinnamon. Again, comfy nostalgic vibes all around - producing very happy tastebuds.
Service and Cost:
As I've already mentioned, the service at Stamatis is on point. From the friendly host, quickly remembering my name, to our humble and somewhat sweetly shy waitress, we felt really happy to be there. All these good things created a fantastic dining experience and even though we were in and out of there in about an hour - hour and a half, it felt long and memorable.
Costs are pretty reasonable, especially if you go the sharing route and for a very hefty meal (including ample wine), you can get out of there for about $30/person. I highly recommend sharing a carafe of wine (only $10) between two people, which gives you about 1 1/2 glasses each.
Stamatis - 29-09 23rd Avenue, Astoria NY 11105
N/Q Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)