By Aphrodite Kotrotsios
Publisher, Hellenic News of America
Every time I visit New York City, I love to check out the restaurant scene, especially the variety of Greek restaurants that the city has to offer. Born and raised in America by immigrant parents, Greek food is a staple in our household. It is no surprise that each time I am out for dinner, I prefer to go eat at a Greek restaurant. Is it the food? The feeling like you’re in Greece for that moment? The Greek culture based atmosphere? I would have to say yes to all of the above.
On my most recent trip, I decided to dine at a small boutique Greek restaurant on the corner of 59th and 1st Avenue, called Under the Bridge Tavern. This hidden gem is located in the affluent neighborhood of Sutton Place, a primarily residential neighborhood. We walked in with my parea (group of friends) and were immediately greeted by the friendly and polite staff. Irene, who happened to be Greek, seated us at our table, that was perfect for our group.
The restaurant immediately transformed the city into what felt like a little tavern on the mountainside of Greece. The menu options were superb, I saw so many favorites I couldn’t wait to try.
We started our food palette with cold appetizers served family style, which is the Greek way. We tried Greek classics such as, pita bread drizzled with Greek extra virgin olive oil (evoo) and oregano accompanied by delicious homemade spreads of Melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant), Htipiti (whipped spicy feta cheese), Tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and dill) and taramasalata (a.k.a. greek caviar). The Greek Salad “Horiatiki” had locally sourced ingredients from Long Island and of course Kalamata Olives.
Next, we moved onto the Grilled Portuguese Sardines seasoned with evoo, lemon juice, oregano, served with Fava (yellow split pee purée) “Pantremeni” tapenade sauce (fresh tomato, evoo, oregano, capers and parsley). Owner, Dimitris Sarantopoulos shared with us that this is one of their signature dishes. It was absolutely delicious and rich in flavor. The Grilled Octopus was just as delicious and cooked to perfection.
We paired these dishes with IIaros, a white blend of Assyrtiko and Sauvignon Blanc that embodies a crisp and fruity taste from Evharis Winery in Attica, Greece.
The Crab Cake was up next. Talk about a savory dish! It’s 95% blue Maryland crab meat and seasoned with mayo, peppers, olives and legumes. The best part of the dish? It’s served with Mavromatika (black-eyed beans). It is one of the only, if not the only, Greek restaurant in New York City that serves this dish with Mavromatika.
Irene, our server, recommended we try the Smyrneika Soutzoukakia, (mini Greek meatballs of Smyrna) appetizer served in a cumin and parsley fresh tomato sauce. Juicy and tender, the Soutzoukakia paired great with the next wine we decided to try, Limniona, which is similar to a full body Pinot Noir from Karditsa, Greece. Wine critic Andreas Kelemidis explained to us that this grape was almost extinct until it had been re-cultivated in Greece due to its rich flavor. It is now sporadically grown throughout different regions of Greece.
One of our favorite dishes was the Saitia, the Peloponnesian version of Spanakopita (spinach pie). This delectable pita dish, made with homemade phyllo dough stuffed with fresh wild greens, spinach and Talagani cheese (100% sheep’s milk) was nothing short of delectable. Another signature dish at Under the Bridge Taverna as it the only spot in New York City to make Spanakopita this way.
Owner, Dimitrios Sarantopoulos shared with us that all of their dishes are special in their own way. Since it is a small menu, each dish is carefully curated and specialized to be distinctive. About 70% of their menu is based on spartan recipes. He opened up shop in February of 2016. Ever since, the locals have welcomed this gem to their neighborhood. A true Greek tavern experience with great tasting food, delightful staff, decor and wines. To top it all off, we were served a complimentary honey walnut sponge cake, also known as Karidopita, a dessert worthy of the Olympic Gods.
Under the Bridge is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Sunday, and
is located on 1079 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10022.