New Nosh Night: E Taverna in Astoria

Having long resided atop my list of places in the neighborhood to eat, E Taverna seemed like an ideal choice for an inaugural New Nosh Night. New Nosh Night is a fun, easy commitment I’ve made to at least once a month have dinner at a place in Astoria that have walked past a million times but never went in.

The great Gigantes at E Taverna on 23rd Avenue in Astoria

The great Gigantes at E Taverna on 23rd Avenue in Astoria

E Taverna, located along an unobtrusive-looking stretch of 23rd Avenue that is home to some of New York City’s greatest Greek fare, is neither new to Astoria nor to acclaim. Only a few months ago, Serious Eats sang the praises of its Octopus and Mussels, an enviable accolade for any Greek restaurant.

Along with the cozy interior and airy screened in outdoor eating area, the first thing to catch my fancy about E Taverna was their plentiful, well-priced mezze offerings. The mezze, or small plates, hover mostly in the $5 – $10 range, and are generously sized for the price. Since I was eating on the early side, I opted to make my dinner a collection of these small plates.

Charcoal-Grilled Octopus perfection at E Taverna in Astoria

Charcoal-Grilled Octopus perfection at E Taverna in Astoria

Based on the aforementioned Serious Eats  review, I selected the Htapodi Sharas, or charcoal-grilled octopus, a bit of a splurge at $14, but worth every dime. Tender hunks of octopus swim in an addictively salty brine, while capers add an additional kick of salt, the whole dish reminding you – lest you ever forget – that the octopus is indeed a creature of the sea. And just like drinking sea water will make you even more thirsty, this dish will linger in your mind until your next visit.

As a slight aside I will mention that if the restaurants were to agree (and if it wouldn’t put them out too much), it’s been a long time dream of mine to do an Astoria Grilled Octopus Tour where a small group would travel from taverna to taverna to sample, compare and contrast the dishes. And as a complete aside, I will mention that this “mind boggling mass of tubular towers planned for Queens” reminds me of an octopus.

But back to my mezze, I also also ordered the Gigantes, giant white Greek beans cooked in a mild tomato sauce, which are a staple on Astoria’s Greek menus, and a personal favorite dish. E Taverna’s recipe did not disappoint, nor did the entree sized bowl for a mere $7.

I rounded out my mezze selection wih Tyrokafteri, another Greek menu staple, a spicy feta cheese spread with roast jalapeños served with an abundant pile of warm pita ($5). While I order Tyrokafteri pretty much every chance I get, E Taverna’s version was the best I have tried, bold, salty, tangy and with a hint of spice.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and I was really glad to have finally tried E Taverna. I’d love for my fellow Astorians to join me in trying out new spots, then tell me about the experience here or on Twitter @tastoriaqueens with the hashtag #NewNoshNight.

Eat well, Astoria!

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