I really should make an effort to get to Astoria more. Most of the time, though, I head that direction and...keep going to Flushing. Uncle George's Greek Taverna is the first restaurant that inspired me, years ago, to periodically make the trek to Queens for dinner - the one that started it all! But I hadn't been in a while (too much regional Chinese food to explore), and then I read somewhere on the internet that it had closed. That bummed me out, but it somehow never occurred to me to doubt the information. Then someone told me that it had not, in fact, closed, and I finally remembered to have a look for myself when I was I in the neighborhood this evening. Just goes to show - don't believe everything you read on the internet!
I'll be damned if I can figure out why there seems to be so much misinformation out there about Uncle George's. I have read more bad notices of this place than any restaurant that I love that I can think of. And I have never had a bad meal here. Keep it simple and traditional, and you'll be fine. And be sure that at least one meat from the rotisserie is part of your meal. Tonight proved that their kontosouvli (pork) - my single favorite menu item here - is still as great as ever. Fourteen bucks gets you a huge portion of 12-15 chunks of beautifully seasoned spit-roasted pork, plus a side dish (their lemon potatoes are excellent).
I brought a friend from Portugal here a few years ago who, like most Portuguese, takes good food very seriously. He took one bite of the pork and said "It was worth coming all the way from Portugal just to taste this." The arni souvlas (lamb) is almost as good.
Also not to be missed are the dolmadakia, grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat, served hot covered in an egg-lemon sauce. My favorite grape leaves anywhere. Start with some traditional cold dips for an appetizer--the traditional trio of skordalia (mashed potato and garlic), taramosalata (fish roe spread), and tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, and garlic) is uniformly great. Not that I'm an expert, but the texture of each one seems just right (unlike those of Taverna Kyclades), and the flavors are clear and strong.
The oven-roasted leg of lamb here is also very good, and I still remember a delicious orzo cooked in the roasting juices that came with it (this was years ago) - I'm not sure if that's something they have regularly, but it's worth asking. Although I've never ordered fish here, carnivore that I am, I'm told their whole grilled fish are good and I believe it. I also hear that this is not the place to get things like gyro and souvlaki, but I can't imagine why you would with so many other stellar options on the menu.
Oh, and it's open 24 hours. But try to go during more or less normal eating times - at off times, things can rather obviously have been sitting around and warmed up.
Uncle George's Greek Taverna
33-19 Broadway, Astoria 11106
(N or Q train to Broadway, then 2 blocks east)
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
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