Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

TAVERNA KYCLADES, 228 First Avenue (between 13th and 14th Street), East Village

I just returned from an amazing two week vacation in Greece. More specifically, we spent most of our time on the Islands. Even more specifically, the island chain known as the Cyclades (pronounced kyklades), which features those iconic blue and white-washed churches and houses. It was spectacular, for the scenery of course, but also for the heavenly food.

As soon as I got back to New York, I yearned to go to Astoria to get a taste of some more Greek food and see how it compares to the real thing, now that I’ve tasted it. Turns out I don’t need to travel that far. Last year, Taverna Kyclades, Astoria’s most popular Greek tavern, opened a Manhattan location in the more convenient East Village. I’ve been to the original many times (before the Greece trip) but was excited to see what they were doing outside of the Greek neighborhood.

Turns out things are still pretty legit. The bustling scene has a few design elements that transported me back to the island of Naxos and the waiters even knowingly smiled at me when I deicded to practice the few Greek words I learned. But most importantly, the octopus was as good (if not better) than anything we tasted in Greece. Granted, the prices are a bit higher but the preparation and quality were just as superb.

Now, I learned in Greece, since the waters are severely overfished, much of the octopus served in taverns is actually frozen and flown in from elsewhere (the menus legally have to specify if the seafood is frozen). So, if that’s the case, I can get good frozen imported octopus right here. And Taverna Kyclades is making it happen.

Octopus at TAVERNA KYCLADES

Greek food is all about simplicity and this plate looks almost bare with two octopus tentacles and some cucumber slices. Yet the charred crisped exterior of the cephalopod reveals so much meaty flavor and each cut of the knife melts the meat down. I bet you didn’t know octopus could be more tender than a piece of filet mignon. But it is. Brought to its knees by plenty of lemon and olive oil – the building blocks of Greek cuisine.

Before I went to Greece, I would have said you had to go out to Astoria for a taste of authenticity in New York. And I still highly recommend that quick train ride, but a worthy alternative is found in the East Village. And it will make you exclaim “Opa!”

TAVERNA KYCLADES
228 First Avenue (between East 13th and East 14th Street),
East Village
(212) 432-0011
33-07 Ditmars Boulevard (between 33rd and 35th Street),
Astoria, Queens
(718) 545-8666
tavernakyclades.com
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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