photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Astoria is the best neighborhood for Greek and Egyptian food in the city, and any trip there should involve both. Luckily, this itinerary does exactly that (and some more). We’ve considered modes of transportation, outdoor dining or takeout options, and, frankly, the closest and best options for public restrooms you can use while you’re out. It’s going to be fun.
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Ferry: Nothing compares to the glory of sitting on the top deck of the NYC ferry right now. So, if you live near-ish to the East River on the Manhattan or Brooklyn side, you must travel by boat. The Astoria line (look for the orange sign) runs roughly every 50 minutes on weekends, starting at Wall Street Pier 11 and then zig-zagging back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The fare is $2.75, and you should download the NYC Ferry app ahead of time to avoid touching the ticket machine.
Subway, Bus, Or Citi Bike: The N, W, R, M, and E trains all run through this Queens neighborhood. For our purposes today, we’d suggest getting off at Astoria Boulevard or Broadway on the N or W train. Alternatively, there are bus and Citi Bike stations galore.
Some Things to Know Before You Go
Much like a deep sea diver filling her oxygen tank or a chess wunderkind stretching his fingers, you should prepare for the day by bringing a picnic blanket or beach towel. This way you’ll have something to sit on in Socrates Sculpture Park. Unless you’re into grassy butts, in which case, we wish you and your green behind all the best.
Second, Astoria is large enough to be four different neighborhoods, and this plan involves the kind of walking that flirts with the category of high-performance cardio. But it’s worth it - and you truly have nowhere else to be. If you start to feel cranky halfway through the day, you can always check out a takeout or outdoor dining spot along the way.
Stop One: A Gyro Snack
If you take the ferry to the neighborhood, you’ll land about ten minutes away from an excellent gyro spot on Astoria Boulevard called BZ Grill. It’s a counter-service restaurant where two spits spin in the window (and, eventually, in your heart). Order one pork gyro to split with your Saturday companion - trust us, it’s a big wrap and also you’re about to try some more shawarma at stop three. Ignore the chicken option - sorry, chicken.
Stop Two: Pick Up Groceries at Titan Foods
Now that you are slightly less hungry and can carry a polite conversation, continue down Astoria Boulevard and turn right on 31st Street to get to Titan Foods, one of the largest Greek grocery stores in the tri-state area. While you’re walking, we suggest casually mentioning to your Saturday companion that Danny Devito shops here.
Since Titan is an air-conditioned grocery store, your armpits will receive some hard-earned relief. But more importantly, Titan is where you’ll find incredible picnic supplies like taramasalata, sticky Greek pastries, and olives. There’s an entire counter dedicated to feta, which you should both ogle and take advantage of. Buy as much as you can carry, and press on.
Stop Three: A Shawarma Snack
Head east to the two-block stretch of Steinway Street known as Little Egypt (it goes from 28th Avenue to Astoria Boulevard), and walk around until you hit Duzan. This incredible Middle Eastern spot is currently running a takeout window with seat-yourself tables out front. Order the chicken shawarma with hummus and very spicy harissa. It’s the best chicken shawarma we’ve had in the neighborhood, and you can let us know if you disagree.
Stop Four: Hang Out in Socrates Sculpture Park
By this point, you’ll likely be sweaty and irritable. It’s time to sit down and stare at some water, that you wish you could jump into. To do this, loop back down to the ferry and head to Socrates Sculpture Park. It’s completely outdoors, and has great views of the East River. Right now there are a few different outdoor art exhibitions, which you can check out here. Just know that the park closes at sunset, and that there are (unfortunately) no public restrooms.