2011-05-25 / Restaurant of the Week


Uncle George's or "Baba Yiorgos" is an Astoria institution that has pervaded all five boroughs and beyond since it was opened in 1978. I remember as a teenager, making special trips to Uncle George from our home in Brooklyn. Many feel the trip and the overall "experience" is worth it. Uncle George said "Give them lots of good food at a low price" and indeed you'll eat well and enjoy a rustic, traditional Greek dining experience that thankfully, hasn't changed much.

The corner location has glass all around and offers a view of bustling Broadway. You can also see passersby practically drooling as platters of roasted lamb, lemon potatoes, pork and grilled fish are served to hungry guests of all ages. Families love to sit at the long tables covered in red and white picnic tablecloths and share a meal, while couples can find quiet tables for two.

One of the highlights of your meal is Demo, the charming waiter who is friendly, funny, and entertaining as he ignites a sizzling pan of saganaki in front of your eyes. This sautéed cheese dish was just one of our amazing appetizers. We also split perfectly grilled and marinated octopus and the special stuffed vegetables of the evening. A juicy tomato and a red bell pepper were baked with a stuffing of rice and savory ground meat and mild spices. One could even make a meal of this dish along with some stuffed grape leaves called "dolmades" but we had more ground to cover. Spicy cheese spread called "tyrokafteri" is delicious on the warm, crusty bread. Order a carafe of the house wine or try a cold Greek beer to complement your meal. Traditional dips include hummus, eggplant, fava bean and taramosalata, all perfect for sharing. Loukaniko are handmade country sausages, grilled to a crispy, juicy finish. Gigantes are giant fava beans cooked in tomato sauce with dill that I find irresistible. House made lentil soup and avgolemono warm your soul.

Each night of the week features daily specials such as Monday's calamari stuffed with sweet crab meat ($12), Tuesday's baked fish with onions, tomatoes and potatoes. Wednesday's roast beef with rice is great and lamb stew with spinach is an old fashioned dish offered on Thursday and Sunday. Your table is not complete without a fresh, crunchy Greek salad to share.

The skilled chefs at Uncle George's do an equally good job with fresh meats, poultry, fish and seafood. Any day of the week, try charcoal-grilled, thick cut pork chops or a juicy steak served with hand cut fries, rice or lemon potatoes. Baby lamb chops are perfectly cooked and served with their fantastic lemon potatoes ($15). Demo suggested the roasted lamb, slowly cooked on the rotisseries and sliced, served with potatoes. We also tried their savory rice and spinach side dish which I highly recommend.

Everything here is fresh and healthy, thanks to traditional Mediterranean recipes and cooking techniques.

Diners nearby were served a whole red snapper, grilled and basted simply with lemon and olive oil. Bronzino, porgy and dorado are other fresh fish available in the ice case up front. Salmon steak, fillet of sole and shrimp kebabs are also available, as well as a traditional dish of broiled shrimp topped with tomatoes, onions and feta cheese ($16).

For a quick lunch, try gyro or souvlaki piled into soft pita bread, served as a sandwich for $6 or on a platter with choice of potato, fries or salad ($8). One amazing aspect of Uncle George's is that prices have changed little and they're open 24 hours a day. The only significant change I noticed is that they now accept Visa and MasterCard, where previously, there was a cash only policy, so there's no reason not to visit. There are plenty of vegetarian options as well.

For a traditional Greek meal in a rustic, family style environment, visit Uncle George's any day, any time. This is the perfect spot for a family meal, a get-together with friends, a quick lunch, and late, late dining after a night on the town. Catering is available on-site or at your location. Order on-line at www.unclegeorges.us with free delivery and now credit cards are accepted. Efcharisto Baba Yiorgos!


33-19 Broadway at 34th St., Astoria  718.626.0593


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