Behold, friends, the best lunch in Buckhead. It is yours for about $7, tax and the generous tip you’ll want to leave for the good people at Cafe Agora.
Called the “mixed maza platter,” it is intended as a shareable appetizer, but I’m telling you to skip the (great looking) kebabs and gyros and eat up this plate of vegetarian Turkish yumboliciousness. It contains (clockwise from 12 o’clock):
- Eggplant salad, bright and tomatoey, with peppers and lemon juice
- Baba Ghanouj, prepared with an ideal balance of tahini smoothness and lemon-garlic tang
- Potato salad, with a tart sprinkling of purple sumac adding a tart foil to the waxy blandness of the red-skinned spuds
- A stuffed grape leaf, bursting with and sweet, with mint, pine nuts and raisins
- Piyaz, a bean salad that tastes like a far superior version of those pickled three-bean salads that used to be a salad bar staple
- Ezme, char-broiled eggplant supplying the meaty flavor that makes all these veggies seem so substantial
- Haydari, the Turkish answer to tzatziki, with walnut and dill
- Tabouli, leaking its parsley-sweetened olive oil-lemon dressing onto the plate for all to share
- Hummus, smooth and lemony, which starts to become almost like a plate sauce as you scoop up the goodies with piece after piece of soft, warm, pillowy pita bread.
- Havuc Ezme (in the center), a roasted carrot spread with yogurt, dill and lemon. I always kick myself for not bringing a tub of this salad home.
With the bill comes a tiny bird’s nest pastry and a three-bite portion of rice pudding. With this gesture, you will experience a strong desire to hug everyone who works at the restaurant.
Cafe Agora will soon move to a larger space nearby. For now, it’s cramped and a little disorganized, and parking nearby isn’t the easiest proposition. Don’t let that stop you. You deserve $7 worth of pure food love.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog