Thymari, 32-07 34th Avenue, Astoria – Greek food, with a “modern interpretation.” Not your traditional Astoria joint.

We arrived early for dinner — half an hour after the Saturday brunch ended, and the place was empty. (I’d gotten to the neighborhood earlier and scoped it out. It was hopping at brunch). It’s an attractive site with wood tables and a relaxed vibe. Then again, an empty restaurant isn’t going to seem bustling. Service was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive. There were a fair number of fish and veggie options. Four people – four different entrees and a couple of appetizers — everything ranged from delicious to outstanding. Tzatziki dip to die for. I’d recommend the baked organic salmon, which was on the regular menu, but based on our experience you probably can’t go wrong. While they say “modern interpretation” they still offer traditional favorites especially as sides and appetizers. You could skip the entrees (although they are fine) and order up some mezedes for family-style dining. Wine list is good and not absurdly expensive. Prices are in the competitive range for the neighborhood. It’s good value but not cheap though Manhattanites who don’t venture off their island enough will be pleased as it’s far more reasonable than it would be on the other side of the East River.

Restaurant website has photos, menus, directions, more.

Toast Chicken Bar (From the people who brought you Toast.)  1268 Amsterdam Avenue, Tel: 646-478-7555– http://www.toastchicken.com/

Menu is simple. It’s a chicken joint — upscale fast food. So far we’ve only done take-out so I can’t report on the dining service. It’s along the strip of restaurants on Amsterdam between 123rd and 122nd. If you eat chicken, this is your place. Theirs is advertized as “raised naturally, free roming, a vegetarian diet, and antibiotic free.”

They’ve got buttermilk fried chicken, including a $4 chicken breast that is easily a meal, also berb pesto rotisserie chicken by the quarter, half or whole, “Texas tenders” with various flavors, buffalo wings, etc. There are few not chicken choices. Not much for vegetarians except the sides. Sides are reasonably priced. There are appetizers as well, and salads. We have limited experience with the menu.

The buttermilk fried is delicious and you can get enough for two for $10 or under. With a couple of sides that’s $15 dinner for a couple in the heart of Manhattan. Wowser! I also tried the rotisserie chicken which was very good but not as juicy as the fried. It’s served with pesto sauce on the side.

We’ve had red rice, black beans and roasted beets as appetizers. All were very good. Sides are listed as $2.50 for small, $5.00 for large. Appetizers including soups are more expensive.  My only regret is ordering the avocado salad. It’s really just a sliced avocado half with a couple of slices of tomato and red onion in a lemon vinigrette. At $7.95 it seems overpriced compared to the rest of the menu. If you are eating there, and have a craving, it’s probably worth ordering, but if you are ordering in, just slice up an avocado.

They serve beer and wine. I know nothing of the wine list, but the beers are fairly extensive. The place is in an odd little U-shaped space with two narrow corridors and some tables  in the back. (There’s an apartment entrance and stairway blocking the space). You enter on the counter side where there are some seats and you can get take-out. The tables are simple formica with a diner feel. On the other side of the divide, there’s a beer/wine bar with people mostly young enough to need ID.

Given that’s two blocks from Toast Uptown and the space is so odd, my first thought was, “What were they thinking?” But now I’m convinced they are geniuses. The neighborhood is saturated with Italian restaurants. Kitchenette, next door, offers “homecooking” fare, including fried chicken, but is overpriced for what it is, and not designed for quick eats. There really isn’t any place like this in the vicinity. This is fun food at a very reasonable price, with ten-minute take-out.

My only complaint: Although we eat dead bird on occasion, we don’t think it’s a great thing, and some of our best friends (and many other people) are vegetarians. They should make it clear whether or not the black beans and black bean soup are vegetarian. The “veggie burrito” is the only “not chicken” vegetarian option listed, and doesn’t sound very exciting. I know  the the point is to do one thing well, but it’s also to get as many people as possible through the door. They might consider some kind of vegan burger, vegan Philly cheese-steak sandwich or other more kick-ass option appealing to hungry vegans.

(Hey, if you found this useful or maybe own or work at one of the fine establishments mentioned above, could you maybe check out my books on Amazon? It’s not like I’m asking for free food or anything, and my most expensive book still costs less than a beverage at Starbucks.)

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3 Comments on Thymari and Toast Chicken Bar — Two Places I’ve Visited Lately

  1. Craig says:

    Marion is my better half. Let me tell you that for decades I have avoided eating chicken both because of moral issues, and because chicken in America just sucks. You can practically taste the hormones and whatnot. This chicken tastes like what chicken used to taste like. Amazing, truly amazing.

  2. Larry says:

    Hi Thanks for checking out the chicken. We now have a garden burger and our beans and rice are both all veggy. Hope to see u again.
    Larry, owner of the chicken bar

  3. Craig says:

    @Larry

    We go there all the time, love everything the salad with the peanuts is awesome. One small suggestion: Add cornbread. Chicken goes with cornbread like peanut butter goes with jelly.

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