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Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I was a vegetarian for decades and quickly learned that for good vegetarian food, it is better to find ethnic cuisines that have large concentrations of vegetarian dishes than to eat at vegetarian or natural food restaurants. Historically, the establishments of these restaurants are driven more by what the food is NOT than by the desire to offer great cuisine. Of course, taste is a consideration, but not the primary raison d'etre.

On the other hand, ethnic cuisine is tried and true, the result of a long history of refinement, catering to the human palate. In New York City, virtually every cuisine can be found, even exotic ones such as Burmese, Malaysian, Ethiopian, Hungarian, Vietnamese, etc. Food is one of the greatest joys in this city, and the salad bowl of ethnicities makes it one of the best places on the planet to eat, whether vegetarian or not. Areas like Jackson Heights, Queens, are veritable smorgasbords of international foods.

Very early in my exploration of foods, I discovered, as most vegetarians have, that for tasty non-meat entrees, the best can be found in Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern foods. So, although I am no longer a strict vegetarian, my food tastes were weaned early in life on these cuisines, which have become my favorites, particularly Indian and Middle Eastern. I am often found dining in places like First Oasis (in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn), Moustache, or the Olive Tree.

Over time, Manhattan has become much more of a center of commerce and quite expensive with the cost of living, with a few exceptions, such as Chinatown, which preclude the ethnic neighborhoods of the past. Many cuisines have become more difficult to find, such as Greek. So for authentic ethnic cuisines, it behooves one to travel to the outer boroughs, where there are many ethnic enclaves with merchants and restaurants catering to them.

When touring Bayside, Queens, recently, I was excited to learn about Avli, a restaurant specializing in Greek and Mediterranean foods. So my visit there necessitated a stop at 38-31 Bell Boulevard.
I was accompanied by a strict vegetarian who was pleased with the very extensive menu with so many vegetable options - things like hummus, stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki, spinach pie, lemon potatoes, various salads, side vegetables, cheese dishes, wraps, and combination platters.

The staff was friendly, buoyant, and helpful. It was a Sunday evening, things were good, and our waitress was Greek and appropriately named Sundey :)

1 comment:

s.c said...

Great reportage. Like it