Byzantio-- 31st St and 28th Ave
Byzantio is very chic – they have adorable red and yellow hanging lights over the spacious bar, comfy brown leather(ette?) chairs, a megatouch machine (not located next to the bathrooms), three flat screen TVs, somewhat subtle red lighting accenting the walls and the cutest waitresses so far (and that's saying something!). They are located next to the train tracks, so sitting by the front windows is loud (we quickly relocated, despite the excellent view we had of Zodiac), but they have tons of room (and tons and tons of empty tables). The patronage was younger than that of the last few cafes we've been to, and much more attractive. No possibly homeless men sleeping in the corners here.
Their pastry case is pathetic in comparison to all of the others we’ve seen, except for perhaps Zodiac-- we’d hardly blame them for accosting photographers – you wouldn’t want word to get out that you're slacking in the Greek pastry department. The display was probably only 5 feet wide and it didn’t even light up. It’s hard for the L things to call your name when they can’t see you due to lack of proper illumination. How can you expect the E things to thrive if they have to live in the equivalent of a cake deprivation room?
The menu is strangely devoid of Greek food –they have Greek salad and baklava but other than that it’s hamburgers and tuna sandwiches (Well, “tuna toast”). They also offer a plate of “fresh ground beef” covered in marinara sauce and bacon and served with French fries. One has to wonder why this is not smothered in gravy. If you’re gonna tempt heart failure, have some balls. They did have frappes ($3.50) – so it’s still a café. While ordering we decided to do a little investigative reporting and we managed to squeeze some info out of our waitress about the Greek toast mystery that was discovered during our mis-adventures at Lifkos Pirgos. We asked her what it was (Christina Amanpour better watch out). Turns out it’s just a ham and cheese sandwich – we were advised not to order it, so we got a pizza with tomato, ham and feta ($9.00) instead.
The frappes were like those at Zodiac in that they were not ice-y, but just sugary milk and Nescafe over ice – this may lend credence to Amy’s fiancé’s theory about the two cafés sharing one owner (even though the menus were totally different). Unfortunately the frappes were nowhere near as good as those at Zodiac mostly because they were full of little undissolved Nescafe chunks. The pizza was okay, but our opinion of it went down the more we ate. The ham and under-ripe tomato lacked any distinguishable flavor and the feta was pretty mild. There was some other filler cheese swimming around that we couldn’t identify. The crust was okay though – crisp if a little thick.
Two of the TVs in the room were predictably set to Greek news so we weren’t paying much attention until out of the corner of her eye Brianna spotted a Trade Fair commercial. We watched the whole commercial, mouths agape. Greek TV originates right here in Astoria! All this time we had assumed it was a satellite feed from the motherland. The commercial made Trade Fair look clean and well stocked-- someone should confront them about lying to new immigrants.
Brianna made a trip to the bathroom and it was disgusting -- they definitely need to get their cleaning crew backstage. The walls, however, were a treasure trove of graffiti goodness. This café visit was a reconnaissance mission and we discovered that there is an Astoria race war taking place exclusively on the bathroom walls at Byzantio. The front line appears to be 15 year old girls calling each other bitches and hos.
We’re awash in awesome Astoria activities this week:
Hanging out in an empty lot! (it’s rave time folks! Pass it on!)
Perhaps watching Lost a bit too obsessively has made us mystery whores, but Greek Café Tour ’06 is feeling a little like under-cover work these days. And, again like Lost, just when you think you’re getting things figured out you realize you know nothing.
1. Greek Toast = Grilled Ham and Cheese
2. There’s a NY based Greek tv station (or Trade fair has expanded internationally so that people in Greece can enjoy their tini tiny aisle and sub-par produce… but really, Occam’s razor.)
1. Where do all the café’s get matching Café Freddo glasses?
2. How do these cafés stay in business with so few customers?
3. What do those Greek stores with the weird tulle things sell and who is buying it?
4. Are American girls all bitches?
Tune in next time….
Ambiance: 4.5 (-.5 for the germy bathroom)
Average Attractiveness of Staff: 4.5
Average Attractiveness of Patrons: 4