There is a reason why highly acclaimed chef Michael Psilakis, who is opening MP Taverna, a much anticipated Greek Restaurant in Astoria this Spring, recently told Serious Eats that the Souvlaki King of Astoria “has some of the best souvlaki I’ve ever had.” The Souvlaki King of Astoria has been selling superior souvlaki in their current location at the corner of 31st Street and 31st Avenue in Astoria since 1979. Brothers Kostas and George formally took over the cart in 1991 from their uncle when he retired to their native Greece.
For the better part of three decades, the menu has remained about the same, with the Souvlaki King of Astoria doling out delicious souvlaki to hungry Astorians as well as loyal fans who drive in from elsewhere in New York City, and even neighboring states. The souvlaki can be ordered either on a stick or in a pita. I like to order the chicken souvlaki on a stick, which both incredibly juicy and lean. Perfectly seasoned with oregano, and grilled until it has a beautiful, flavorful char, be sure to order it with a hit of lemon juice and salt. The lamb souvlaki pita is another favorite dish. Grilled cubes of tender lamb are piled on a soft pita with fresh tomato, onion, an excellent homemade tzatziki sauce, and a generous handful of hand cut french fries. At a mere $5, this may be the best, tastiest deal in Astoria.
The Souvlaki King of Astoria also serves up their “famous French Fries,“ which absolutely live up to their name. Thick, hand cut french fries are cooked in extra virgin olive oil and heaped into a large to-go container before being seasoned with oregano and salt. The use of extra virgin olive oil really pays off and their fries are never greasy or oily, but rather fresh-tasting, flavorful and totally addictive. The Souvlaki King of Astoria is planning to add new menu items this Spring, when they unveil a brand new cart that – I am happy to report – will remain at their historic spot at the corner of 31st and 31st. The current cart will be moved to a new Queens location, yet to be determined. Wherever it lands, that lucky corner is guaranteed to have some awesome street food.
These are exciting times for this well-loved and highly-regarded Astoria institution. On a recent Saturday morning, I was talking with Lampros (Kostas’ son and George’s nephew) who works in the family business while studying business at college in Manhattan. He recently put the Souvlaki King of Astoria up on various social media sites to connect with customers online, and use the skills he’s learning at school to help the business grow. “It’s my family’s business,” he said, “I want it to do well.” Generations worth of care, quality, and some serious grill skills are on display when you visit the Souvlaki King of Astoria. So stop by, Astoria, stand in line, and see for yourself.