2010-09-08 / Restaurant of the Week

Crave...It's What you Want

Crave has what you crave for lunch, dinner and especially late night when the cravings hit hard. Opened just five months ago, Crave is the product of the partnership of two cousins, Billy Pappas and Louie Sparagis, both of whom grew up in and around Astoria. Billy is a classically trained chef and graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. Louie is a restaurateur and lover of food and travel. Crave is a Mediterranean style eatery that offers a wide variety of fresh, natural food served until the wee hours by a friendly, courteous staff. Dine inside, where tidy tables and leather banquettes rest upon tile floors, illuminated by blown glass fixtures. Colorful paintings by local artists adorn the walls and add a decidedly contemporary touch. Outside, teak bistro tables line the sidewalk and allow for al fresco dining. Better still, the prices are surprisingly low so you can visit often.

Sparagis embarked on a 7-week sojourn in Europe to develop the ideas for the menu which includes the freshest Greek “meze” or appetizers, gorgeous salads, grilled meats and shrimp, juicy burgers, Belgian style frites and lots more. Much of the menu is based on the Mediterranean diet, perhaps the healthiest in the world, and in fact, the family imports the finest olives, olive oil, oregano and chamomile tea from the mountains of Greece for use in the Crave kitchen.

We were presented with a dazzling array of starters, many inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. A beautiful plate containing four savory dips was separated with rows of sliced cucumber to feature creamy hummus, melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), spicy cheese dip and a Greek caviar dip called taramosalata. Triangles of hot pita bread, just off the grill, were the perfect implement for scooping up these dips that burst with flavor. Tender calamari was prepared in two delicious ways: marinated and charcoal grilled for a smoky, earthy taste and texture, and fried in an impossibly crispy batter ($7.95). The accompanying dipping sauce is appropriately named “kung-fu ketchup” which foretells of its kick. I hear the popcorn shrimp are also great, served with house made tartar sauce.

Crave serves one of the best Greek salads ever, teeming with colors and flavors from the garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh greens, red onion, peppers, creamy feta cheese, olives and tender, stuffed grape leaves. At just $6.95, this salad may be shared as a first course, or could be a meal in itself, especially if you top it with tender, grilled chicken.

Only the best meats are purchased for the Crave kitchen and we were impressed with the variety of marinated meats, charcoal grilled on skewers. The chicken sticks, lamb, pork and beef sticks were very tender and delicious. Loukaniko country sausages are seasoned with spices and go well with fries, lemon potatoes, rice or vegetables. The doner kebab is thinly sliced and melts in your mouth. Grilled shrimp are served on a dainty skewer and are tender and juicy. Grilled pita and tzatziki sauce come with all the grilled meats, including house made bifteki, or Greek style meatballs blended with herbs and spices. Pile it all on a handy pita sandwich or have it as a platter. Many of these savory meats are used in Crave bowls, a specialty of the house and some of the most requested dishes. The Southwestern bowl is layered with rice, pork doner, onions and peppers ($6.95). Even baby back riblets are special here, as their succulent meat falls right off the bone.

Nothing satisfies your late night cravings like a juicy burger. The signature Crave burger is cooked to order and topped with American cheese, house made remoulade sauce, lettuce and tomato for a two-handed feast ($5.95). Over a dozen burgers are available, including turkey burgers and veggie burgers. The Belgian style fries are deliciously addictive, served in a traditional cone. Healthy baked potatoes are on the menu too, with or without toppings. Try some of their savory dipping sauces such as spicy mayo, remoulade, horseradish Dijon and peppercorn parmesan. The house made tartar sauce is awesome on the crunchy fish and chips, made from flaky cod or flounder.

If you crave dessert, and who doesn’t, you’ll have plenty of choices here. Perhaps the most decadent is the fried cheesecake, served with strawberry sauce, though the molten double chocolate brownie is up there too, served warm with vanilla infused whipped cream ($4.95). House made baklava, ekmek pastry with custard and honey and creamy rice pudding will finish your meal in style and they’re all made in house. Laura, our kind, helpful server, saw to it that we had everything we needed. Their motto includes “quality service and delicious food prepared in a healthy manner”.

Crave is open seven days and nights from 11am to 1am on Sunday thru Wednesday, and until 4am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to quench your late night appetite. Wine and beer will be on hand very soon. Fast, free delivery is available to your home or office and catering is available for all occasions. For lunch, dinner or late night dining, Crave has what you’re craving. See and be seen at Crave in Astoria.
28-55 36th Street • Astoria

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