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New York City’s Avra Estiatorio to Open Second Location this Spring
Avra Estiatorio, the popular Greek eatery in New York City’s midtown, will be opening a second location in the spring of 2016. Sticking with the restaurant’s East Side roots (the original is located at 48th Street and Lexington Avenue), the new branch will be on 60th Street between Madison and 5th Avenues, just up the block from Central Park. Aside from its coveted, park-adjacent locale, the building that will house the new restaurant has quite the storied past. From 1940 until 1992, it was the home of the famous Copacabana nightclub, which inspired the Barry Manilow song of the same name. It has also made cameos in hit movies such as Tootsie, Goodfellas, Carlito’s Way, The French Connection, and Raging Bull, to name a few. And, at one point, it housed the Michelin-starred restaurant Rouge Tomate.
Though the Grand Opening is only a few months away, General Manager Stelios Tsappas says the new restaurant has been in the works for years and was held up by that infamous Real Estate trifecta: location, location, location. He explains, “The original location has been open since the winter of 2000 and it’s doing great. It’s doing better and better every year, so the time came to open a second one. We were ready but we didn’t have the right location. Unfortunately it’s not easy to find a new restaurant location, it takes years of research.”
Once the place was locked down, the renovations and menu planning started taking shape fairly quickly. The original Avra Estiatorio describes itself as “where every day is like summer in Greece.” According to Tsappas, the new location will have a similar feel, but, at 17,000 square feet, will be a bit larger. It will have a private room that can fit up to 100 people, just like the original location, as well as a smaller private room for 20. It will also have a separate entrance for private parties. Stelios adds that much of the décor hasn’t been decided yet, but that there will be “two floors, high ceilings, and a 360 degree fish display that patrons can walk around.” And, of course, outdoor dining space to give customers that summer-in-Greece feel.
Though it won’t be open in time this year, the new location will follow the original’s tradition of throwing huge New Year’s Eve and Greek Easter parties. As in previous years, the original Avra’s New Year’s Eve party will have three sittings for dinner – 5:00pm, 7:00pm, and 9:00pm, with the final sitting to include the countdown to the New Year. According to Tsappas, 9:00pm diners typically stay “until around 2:00am.” Each year, the restaurant does a special three-course prix fixe menu. The offerings include a combination of old favorites and brand new dishes. It also includes a champagne toast.
For Greek Easter, which will take place on Sunday, May 1 in 2016, Avra goes all out. They put their outdoor courtyard to good use by setting up spits and cooking over 20 whole lambs. And, if the food isn’t enough, live Greek music helps complete the atmosphere.
Tsappas says the new location will continue these traditions, though it’s too early to work out exact logistics. However, he’s also hoping it will keep up with another Avra tradition – regular customers. “We have lots of regulars,” he says. “Lots and lots of regular customers. We have lots of people who come again and again, and some who like to sit at the same table every time.” Regular or not, Avra’s customers number in the hundreds every day and the food is a big part of what keeps them coming back.
“From the moment you step through our doors you feel you’ve been transported to a Villa in Greece. You are surrounded in an authentic, cozy Mediterranean atmosphere with imported limestone and distressed wood floors, stone washed walls, exposed wood beams, and French doors that open to a beautiful flowered courtyard. Our open kitchen with its magnificent fish display prepares the freshest selections right from the sea.” Obviously proud of the restaurant’s offerings, Tsappas echoes this statement when describing the menu, saying, “We have delicious, fresh ingredients. We import our own fish from all over the Mediterranean. We import Branzino from France and Greece, Barbounia from Greece, King Tiger Shrimp from Nigeria, Lithrini from Greece, nobody has this in the city!” The restaurant specializes in offering these dishes, and many more seafood options, by the pound with prices ranging from $29.50 to $53.50. They also have a diverse and plentiful appetizer menu, raw bar, and a few land options. Despite, or perhaps because of the large menu selection he doesn’t have a favorite dish.
The new location’s menu will of course have the same high standards as the original Avra, but not necessarily the same menu. Tsappas won’t give too much away, but says it’s likely to include some of the same recipes and some new ones, possibly with a more modern Greek theme. The original Avra’s focus is “traditional Greek food with an emphasis on specialty seafood.” The chef hired for the new location has been holding tastings for possible new menu items (Tsappas wouldn’t give any hints) but, unfortunately for Avra fans and foodies everywhere, the tastings are for management only.
The original Avra Estiatorio is open every day for lunch and dinner. In addition, brunch is offered on the weekend. Prie fixe menus are available for all three meals. And, since it’s located in the Theater District, the dinner prie fixe menu is available 5-6:30pm as a pre-Broadway (or Off-Broadway) treat. Every Sunday, a live jazz band, the Manhattan Vibes, “led by internationally renowned vibes master and recording artist Christos Rafalides,” plays during brunch. Avra also offers both tangible and digital gift cards with no expiration date, something the new location is likely to do as well.
To learn more about Avra Estiatorio and peruse its menu, their website is avrany.com.