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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cheap Eats: Café Agora

IMG_0422.JPGMediterraneans know how to live the good life. Everything is done at a pace that welcomes and relaxes. And that's why I adore Café Agora (262 East Paces Ferry Road. 404-949-0900. www.cafeagora.com). No matter how much you have ordered, congenial owner Al Ozelci will insist you sit at the counter and feed you little bites of this and that until your food is ready. He says his hospitality is for “feedback,” but it's really just his way.

Agora’s gyros are serious contenders for best in Atlanta. The aromatic mix of marinated and spit-roasted beef and lamb is cut into perfectly sized slices, nestled into seasoned shredded lettuce, drizzled with tangy tzatziki sauce and wrapped in dense pita bread charred and puffed from a short spell on the grill ($7.01). If the other meat choices are too tempting to bare, go for the mixed grill ($14.95)—an assortment of gyro meat, charbroiled chicken, kofta kabob (broiled seasoned ground lamb with Turkish spices & herbs), lamb shish kabob (grilled marinated and grilled lamb) and adana kabob (seasoned and grilled ground lamb) set atop basmati rice and served with a house salad and that delicious pita.

While Café Agora is a carnivore’s paradise, the salads and vegetarian appetizers are uniformly superb. Your best bet is to grab the “Mixed Maza Platter,” ($7.99) which comes with of variety of appetizers including smoky baba ghanoush, creamy hummus, chunks of grilled eggplant and a salad made with shredded carrots, creamy yogurt and bright notes of dill.

A final word of advice: resisting the Ozelci’s humorously persistent insistence that you have one of his filo-based pastries dripping in honey and crumbled pistachios is futile.

(photo by Jennifer Zyman)

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