Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cafe Agora

262. E Paces Ferry Rd., Atlanta

Let me start with this: I promise that all of my reviews will not be of restaurants located only in Buckhead. I know that the first three restaurants have all been located within a five mile area on Peachtree, and this is merely a coincidence. I will be reviewing restaurants and taverns in all of metro Atlanta. Bear with me in the meantime, because Cafe Agora is really special.

Cafe Agora is a casual restaurant right in the middle of what could formerly be described as Buckhead's club district. It serves Turkish, Greek and Mediterranean style cuisine and also offer takeout. For those night owls in search of great food, the restaurant is open until an astonishing late 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.

I had lunch at Cafe Agora today, and this was my third visit to the restaurant. The food here is outstanding, and is served to you by a seemingly always upbeat, extremely personable Turkish man named Al. You will love him. Why will you love him? Because he is rightfully proud of the fresh, delicious food that the restaurant serves, and he is determined that you will like it too.

When you dine at Cafe Agora, be sure and tell Al that it's your first time eating there. You'll know who he is, because he'll approach you right away and he might be the only employee who will speak to you. Don't worry, Al is enough. He will confidentally inform you that the food is great, then he will probably recommend the meze appetizer plate. Recommend may not be the right word. Most likely he'll just tell you you're going to eat it. Don't get upset about this, because it might be the best item on the menu. It's all vegetarian, for those of you who are concerned with that. You'll get a good sized, colorful platter of creamy hummus, tahini, cilantro, tomatoes and olives with a second plate of small slices of pita for dipping. The babaganoush is out of this world, eggplant transformed into a edible powerhouse. If you let him, Al will feed it to you. Try not to get freaked out. He looks clean, and he's very sweet. Consider yourself pampered.

If you've followed Al instructions and refrained from filling up on the pita, you will have room for an actual entree. The gyros are excellent. They are piping hot, with with a combination of spit roasted beef and lamb. The kebabs, if you have a bigger appetite, are even better. The meat is perfectly roasted and spiced, and it comes with a small salad and warm, doughy baked bread. What could be better? Here's what's better - you'll end up spending about $10 per person for a fantastic meal and great service.

Please leave a little room for dessert. The baklava is the best I've ever had. The honey, the soft but crisp baked phyllo dough and the bright green, ground pistachio covering the top all add up to a wonderful treat. Unlike a lot of baklava served around Atlanta, it's not overly sweet, so you won't go into sugar shock after eating one piece. Instead, you'll want to take some home, like my friend Dave did today.

I've traveled to Turkey (Kusadasi), but only for a day, so I'm not an expert on the food. However, my friend Kevin was stationed there during his military days and he said the food is authentic. Another big plus.

If anything keeps this place from being perfect, it's the same thing that makes it so great: Al's excitement about the food. If you don't eat everything on your plate, his disappointment is obvious. He's not mad, he just feel like he's failed you a little bit. He can't really understand that you might have stuffed yourself to your full capacity.

How do you convince Al that you really loved Cafe Agora's food, thereby alleviating his worries and smoothing his sensitive feathers? You come back another day, and eat some more.


  1. My first experience with Cafe Agora was at about 2:30 one Sunday morning when I was watching my friend's band at Park Bench next store. It was late for a Saturday night and I was hungry. I really didn't even know the place was there even though we were right next to it. My friend told me about it so I decided to give it a try. WOW! I was blown away. "L" (I thought it was Al) is an awesome guy who really "makes" the experience.

    My experience from start to finish was as the review written above. "L" asked me if I had ever eaten there before. I responded with "No". He immediately instructed me to sit down. Without hesitation, he then brought me a plate of food and a menu. I really didn't know what to do at that point, but the food he brought looked so good, I didn't argue. After the first bite, I knew the Agora Cafe would become one of my favorite places to dine. I had the Lamb Kebabs at 2:45 in the morning. Spectacular!

    My second visit was when our band was playing at East Andrews. We had a few minutes before we started so I decided to get a gyro. It was huge, hot, loaded with mouth watering aroma and very pleasing to the eyes. Marvelous!

    The only thing better than the food is how special "L" makes you feel. It's like you've known him your entire life. Bottom line, this place is a well kept secret that needs to be exposed. This is some of the best ethnic food in Atlanta of any type and at any price. Give it a try. Tell "L" or "Al" that John sent you.

  2. Oddly enough, I had exactly the same experience as John for my first time at Cafe Agora. It was after a late night at Park Bench and "L" was in the same super friendly form. The food is excellent and while the place isn't a fancy restaurant, I happily go there for mediterranean all the time.

  3. Skip all the chains restaurants, this is one of Buckhead's best secrets. L will bring you a sampler platter of dips and pita. Follow this with the Adana Kebob and you will leave very happy. Also L will tend bar for all your drinking pleasures.