Crave Bites are like Greek-style mini-funnel cakes, golden dough puffs cooked to order with a ramekin of warm honey cinnamon sauce.
Crave (28-55 36th St., Astoria)
Not to be confused with Crave Shack, the Halal burger joint just around the corner on Steinway's stretch of Little Egypt, Crave is more of a step up from Greek street food, yet more casual than a typical restaurant. Though there is a walk-up counter, as well as a small dining room and outdoor cafe, one of the best (and most dangerously convenient) features of Crave is the fact they deliver until 1 o'clock in the morning each day of the week, and serve dine-in and carryout until 4AM Thursday through Saturday.
Living up to its name, I first tried Crave yesterday for lunch with my roommate, David. Though I resisted the urged to grab a twilight bite after work last night, you better believe I found myself headed straight back today for lunch. Though this post by no means features the healthier offerings on their menu (I mean, how often do you "crave" lettuce?), there is definitely something for everyone. From baked potatoes to turkey burgers, to five different salads, as well as more traditional Greek dishes (stuffed grape leaves, lamb gyros, spanakopita, and souvlaki platters with lemon potatoes), nearly the entire menu is under ten dollars.
While the majority of the customers today and yesterday seemed to be ordering take-out, we sat outdoors, where extremely friendly table service is offered. Although I was tempted to dabble in some of the traditional Greek offerings, to be blatantly honest, that's not necessarily what I usually crave. Therefore, we ventured out and tried some of the more eclectic options on the 5-page menu.
The frankenchips crave bowl was a steel platter of chips with cocktail franks, cheddar sauce, fried onions, and jalapenos. Are you kidding? It was like one of those dishes you may have experimented with during childhood, and then fall back on the rest of your life when you just need a little hug from your food. Nothing gourmet about it... no exotic cheeses... but definitely something you just might crave. Stuff a forkful into one of the pita triangles, and it's almost like a Greek pig-in-a-blanket...
The chips are sort of like itty-bitty hand cut french fry nibbles... you'll definitely want to grab a few at a time with a fork. Each basket comes with your choice of over 15 dipping sauces (from gravy and spicy mayo, to roasted garlic aioli or kung fu ketchup).
Maybe it's the fact that I sometimes miss Long John Silver's with the crispy fried bits in the bottom of the basket, but my favorite plate at Crave was the beer battered fish 'n chips, which you can get with cod, flounder, or shrimp. The shrimp were jumbo and succulent, and ultimately sinfully delicious.
How can you go wrong when your fish 'n chips are served with homemade tartar sauce and packets of malt vinegar?
For a sweet tooth craving, I have to recommend the Crave Bites (pictured at the beginning). I was a little disappointed to find they were out of one of my favorite Greek sweets, ekmek... so I guess I'll have to stop by another time to try it. But for a crave-worthy twist on a New York classic, you can't go wrong with their fried cheesecake, almost like a sweet cream cheese chimichanga in a pool of strawberry sauce.
Update: went back today (again!) to try the ekmek, a Greek take on a popular Turkish dessert with shredded phyllo dough, honey, walnuts, and vanilla whipped cream. Though ekmek traditionally has a layer of custard between the dough and cream, Crave's version sans the custard was pretty tasty.
Though I was a little bummed about the missing ekmek layer, their delicious frappé more than made up for it...