Late in August, I found myself meeting up with the nephew and his dad (my brother) for the nephew’s final night in New York for the summer, so we let him choose the place. By the time we were ready to meet up, it was after 9pm, so we chose a comfort-food Greek place near the last stop on the N train.
Stamatis has been around forever, it seems. There’s the brightly-lit main room, another room farther back with a mural painted on one wall, and a spacious, albeit dim outside area. We chose to sit outside this warm evening, so we were ushered through the restaurant and out the back. The back patio is filled with simple tables and chairs. There were three or four of the couple dozen tables occupied, by what appeared to be younger people on dates and older, married people out for dinner in the neighborhood. The atmosphere both inside and out was one of a restaurant with a local, devoted following, and we, as out-of-towners and Manhattanites, were probably a rarity.
The menu is written completely in Greek on the left, and translated (and explained) in English on the right. As you can see, prices are quite reasonable.
Every table gets a pile of garlic bread, and I assume if you want more, more will be sent over. This was rather good, heavily toasted, not too garlicky but flavorful.
My brother wanted a beer, so I ordered one to keep his company. Keo is pretty much identical to Mythos, which is also offered, the national beer of Greece, and was refreshing on this somewhat muggy evening.
Here come the appetizers! My brother orders lots of food, and since we were talking business during dinner, we were letting him expense this. So why not taste a few things, right? This is the Greek salad, a portion of the large bowl of salad. Tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and a healthy dose of feta. Very good and fresh, even at this hour.
Forging ahead with our “classic Greek appetizers” theme, the stuffed grape leaves gialatzi. Very pretty presentation, which did not go unnoticed. These were perhaps a bit mushier than I prefer, but so flavorful, filled with rice and ground lamb, I believe. I think the leaves were the weak link, but overall, I did like these, and they were devoured.
Why not a garlic dip? Served with pita (not pictured), though the garlic bread worked well too. We enjoyed this blast of garlic and managed to finish it in short order while waiting for the mains.
Frank got the moussaka (I believe), layers of meat and eggplant with bechamel and potatoes on the side. I dunno, he had a hard time waiting for me to take this picture from across the table (as steadily as I could). I had a small taste, and it had everything I look for in a meat dish. Maybe a tad oily, but it was nicely spiced and overall, I’d order this on my next visit.
My nephew wanted the roasted lamb, but that was done for the night, so he chose the chargrilled chicken. Fairly simple, and the breasts were kept juicy through the cooking process. He ate it and, with characteristic enthusiasm, stated, “It’s good.” So we have that.
Ah, the lamb fricase. I thought back to grade school and the cafeteria “chicken fricasee”, shredded chicken drowned in mashed potatoes and gravy, which I actually liked. This was not like that. Slices of lamb, a peppery gravy/sauce, and slabs of potatoes. It said it came with “greens”, but… I’m pretty sure that the carrot and green thing don’t count.
Nonetheless, it took a lot of energy not to devour this quickly. The lamb was fork-tender — when I actually cut the slices — and the sauce removed most of the gamey traces that, well, I kind of enjoy with lamb but it seems many do not. I mopped up with the remaining garlic bread and found myself completely stuffed.
After the plates were cleared, we were offered coffee but declined. There is no dessert menu; rather, the table normally would get a small plate of pastries or other desserts, whatever they had made that day, but we were there pretty late and they’d run out. So it’s clearly a popular place. The total bill was very reasonable for such a large quantity of food, too.
I’m coming back to Stamatis, and I would even if it weren’t so easy to find off the N/Q line. The staff was friendly to us from the start, and our waiter offered his help every step of the way. Plus, you know, it’s inexpensive but satisfying. It’s worth the trip!