I guess you can label me as a "foodie", but Greek food holds a place dear to my heart. When I was in graduate school in New York, I lived in Astoria, Queens. Many of my friends would say at the time, "Astoria is more Greek than Greece." I did not realize how true that was until I became friends with person who was Greek and shared my love of world music and cuisine.
He took me to Titan, arguably Astoria's best Greek grocery store; introduced me to several regional Greek restaurants each within walking distance but worlds apart in taste and took me to hear rembetiko, traditional Greek music that sounds very similar to that of my Jewish tradition.
Needless to say, I was hooked on the taste and never pass up an opportunity to eat at Greek restaurants.
I have often found it difficult to recapture the flavors of my life in Astoria. The restaurants that I have tried in New Jersey pale in comparison with the local tavernas that I had in Queens. The feta did not taste right, the kalamata olives tasted acrid and the spanakopita (spinach pie) in many places was soggy and bland. I was not expecting much when I saw that they were building out a restaurant simply called Greek Taverna.
This restaurant is part of three that exist in New Jersey. Owner Peter Hajiyerou has created an upscale eating establishment that features many dishes from his native Cyprus as well as other standard fare from the Greek culinary repertoire. The restaurant features an open kitchen which allows patrons to see their dishes prepared right in front of their eyes. The servers, in my experience, have all been very attentive and really know their menu.
Most importantly, when I come to the Greek Taverna, I am greeted like family and it is always a pleasure to eat there with good food, great atmosphere and portions that will definitely have you taking a trip home with a doggy bag.
I recommend that you give the haloumi cheese on the grill a try. This native Cypriot cheese is just fabulous and is a truly unique experience.
Also try the Manitaria saganaki, an appetiser that features grille portobello mushrooms smothered in kefalograviara cheese in a red wine sauce...just incredible! Katsikisio is one of my favorites on the menu and is pure dairy decadence with dried apricots, almonds and melted goat cheese served with toasted pita bread. As you may have guessed, cheese is a staple at Greek Taverna and one should not shy away from the dairy delights offered by Mr. Hajiyerou.
As a main course, you cannot go wrong with the fresh fish that the Greek Taverna will grill whole for you and serve in traditional Greek style.
Also of note is the arnaki tis gastras which is braised lamb in a tomato sauce with roasted potatoes, a classic Greek dish that will satisfy even the heartiest appetites.
I am happy that Mr. Hajiyerou chose Glen Rock to open his third restaurant. It is another quality restaurant that helps to make this borough so great and is absolutely part of the "Good Stuff of Glen Rock" list. With a hearty menu and a friendly staff, I say give the Greek Taverna a try and you will leave with a boisterous Opa!