What comes to mind for many when they think of Astoria? Personally speaking, I can say from experience that anytime I’ve mentioned that I’m from Astoria, people automatically infer that I am of Greek descent. And I can’t blame them for (luckily) guessing correctly – Astoria has a reputation both in the U.S. and even in Greece as one of America’s Greektowns; those looking to leave Greece in search of a change or better opportunity have been settling in Astoria for years. Take a stroll down almost any street, and you’ll most likely come across a Greek name, or a business sign that is written in both Greek and English. Inevitably, those same people who left home begin to miss it and search for little pieces of home.
So the question then becomes this, what exactly makes a place ‘authentic’? Who’s to decide what deems an establishment as true to its aim? Certainly not me, but I can tell you this: Victory Garden Café comes pretty close to a little piece of Greece in Astoria
Located at 21-69 Steinway Street, Victory Garden Café was initially established as a sweet shop in 1968 by the Sakalis family, serving Greek pastries and delicacies to those who were in search of a slice of home, or to those who were open to expanding their palates. Years later, Victory expanded into a restaurant, complete with a back garden open to hosting private events such as birthdays, wedding showers, and even wedding receptions.
Upon entering Victory Garden Café, I was immediately greeted by Anna, the Sakalis’ daughter who is the Chief of Sales & Marketing for the family business. Her parents, George and Antigoni, come from a long line of culinary roots in Greece. In a time where a lot of ‘family establishments’ do not exactly have that warm family feeling, it is refreshing to see a family who really all work together and are eager to greet and answer any questions for diners.
Victory’s strongest suit are its classic, and extremely popular, Greek dishes and drinks. The Amethystos wine from Santorini was the perfect accompaniment to a main steak dish cooked to perfection. Customer favorites include the Greek salad ($10), stuffed grape leaves also known as dolmades ($15), tirokafteri ($7), a spicy feta and peppers dip which was the ideal addition for the toasted pita triangles.
When it comes time for the final dessert course, however, one can immediately recognize how Victory has managed to endure and remain true to its roots despite a constantly-changing neighborhood. The standout for all was the galaktoboureko ($4.50); a pastry filled with custard and wrapped in phyllo dough and honey. However, Victory also has a wide array of desserts ranging from cannolis to cakes and other Greek sweets.
Victory Garden Café is a breath of fresh air; whether you miss Greece or if you simply would like a break from chain restaurants or stores, this is the place for you. Make sure to arrive hungry!
Where: 21-69 Steinway St.
Phone: (718) 274-2087
Hours: Mon-Sun, 10AM-2AM