(Editor’s Note: A recent visit here found that standards have slipped to an unacceptable level. For now, we are suggesting that diners avoid the restaurant.)
The perfect burger, or rather the perfect American-style greasy spoon, has long been the holy grail of expats and locals in Athens. There have been a number of places that have gone after the title of the Athenian burger king over the past 30 years, usually in the affluent southern suburb of Glyfada, home to a U.S. military base in the 1980s, but none have had lasting power. The military base has been closed for some time now but the appetite for American diner-style food (the kind popularized in what have traditionally been Greek-owned diners) has not abated in the least.
Enter New York Sandwiches, opened less than two years ago near Pyrgos Athinon (pyrgos means “tower”) – the only skyscraper in central Athens – in the busy area of Ambelokipoi. With a menu that includes burgers, bagel sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks, old-school letter boards hanging above the counter listing what’s on offer, and pictures of New York on the walls, the restaurant works hard to bring a bit of America to the heart of Athens.
Recently, the venue took things even further, introducing Sunday brunch to a city that hardly goes out for breakfast, early or late. To anyone who has ever eaten a classic American brunch, this is the real deal. New York Sandwiches is possibly the only place in central Athens that’s not a hotel breakfast buffet where one can find French toast, pancakes, and bagels with cream cheese and lox, as well as bottomless cups of filter coffee (this might sound unremarkable but the concept of a free refill of anything is a rarity in Athens). The brunch also offers another specialty that’s hard to find in Athens and that, sadly, is not on offer any other day: eggs. The eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine served on homemade English muffins and fluffy scrambled eggs served with roasted mushrooms are all recommended.
As good as these dishes are, these are not the highlights at New York Sandwiches. What really sets this place apart are the deli sandwiches that the average Athenian wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else in town. Our favorite is the Reuben-esque “grilled cheese pastrami sandwich,” a large pile of pastrami with mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese in rye bread that is lightly toasted. The burgers are – along with those served at Colibri – among the best to be had in central Athens. But New York Sandwiches really wins because of its fries. Cut by hand, deep-fried and sprinkled with paprika, a portion of these can be a full meal in itself.
With fast and polite service and reasonably priced food, New York Sandwiches is becoming increasingly popular, particularly on Sundays, when expats, families and young couples eat brunch together at the restaurant’s long, rectangular communal tables and enjoy the fact that after decades of searching, Athens has at long last found a real diner to call its own.