Maybe you become an Astorian when your comfort food becomes Greek food. That’s the idea that crossed my mind after a long, difficult day, in what has been an ongoing series of long difficult days in September, when I decided to finally try Bahari on Broadway.
Bahari, a decade-old Greek restaurant with even deeper roots in the neighborhood (formerly Stamatis, the owners are the same) has been hiding in plain sight within a stone’s throw of my apartment door. I have walked past thousands of times, but finally went in last week because it was nearby, and I desperately needed a Greek meal. What I was craving were the staple Greek dishes – the ones many places in Astoria do so well – and the slightly harried hospitality that generally accompanies it.
Immediately upon entering, I knew I was the last one to be in on the secret that Bahari is a good place. Nearly every table was full, especially with elder folks, something I always take as an excellent sign, since the elder folks (at least the ones I’ve known) won’t accept no shit. This is also the reason I came up with New Nosh Night: to still experience surprise in a neighborhood that I like to imagine I know well.
I went for the staples as planned. Grilled Octopus with a lovely char and perfect chew, lacking only in presentation (why the lone carrot?), roasted chicken, a tremendous Greek salad and a cold appetizer platter of traditional cold spreads.
The usual suspects were present – taramosalata, a fluffy cloud of carp roe and potato, tzatziki, Astoria’s most ubiquitous yogurt dip (can we get more Labneh up in here?), garlicky potato skordalia, melintzanosalata, roasted eggplant, and tyrokafteri, a spicy feta sperad. All were excellent, though the standouts were the smoky, garlicky egplant dip and the creamy feta spread.
By the time the free dessert – yes free, in the wonderful tradition of Astoria’s old guard Greek restaurants – a generous hunk of Galaktoboureko, a semolina custard swaddled in feta, and an equally generous serving of Karithopita, Greek Walnut cake arrived, Bahari had helped to heal what ailed me, if only for the evening. Maybe you become an Astorian when a good Greek meal feels like home, makes you think of home.
Bahari – 31-14 Broadway, Astoria