A gathering spot
Taverna Agora offers traditional Greek cuisine
by Danielle Jackson
The taverna, which refers to a small restaurant serving authentic Greek cuisine, is an integral part of Mediterranean culture. Likewise, an agora refers to a gathering place in ancient Greek city-states, a marketplace where merchants sold their goods.
This combination of terms formed the idea behind Taverna Agora, an authentic Greek eatery situated along Raleigh’s bustling Glenwood Avenue. When it opened more than five years ago, primary owner Lou Moshakos wanted to bring his home country’s tradition to the Triangle.
“Tavernas in Greece are something like a coffee shop here. They’re a place where people gather and see friends, talk through everyday problems, and eat and treat each other to a glass of wine,” says Vasilis Kalyvas, general manager and partner.
Everything in the restaurant is classically Greek, from the blue and white color scheme to the vase-adorned tables and house wine served in copper pitchers to an in-house market that sells traditional Greek foods such as feta cheese and imported olive oils.
“Everything looks like you’re in Greece,” Kalyvas notes.
While the eatery’s interior seats about 120 people, Taverna Agora’s popular patio seats up to 60 and is packed during warmer months.
“The patio has been 95 percent of our success,” Kalyvas says.
“Six or seven months out of the year, people can come here and enjoy the outside.”
In fact, he and Moshakos are considering whether to winterize the patio to have extra room for special occasions and year-round use.
“We’re trying to find a way without losing our nice atmosphere,” he says.
Taverna Agora’s menu of course features various lamb dishes but includes other Mediterranean fare as well, such as fish and beef. Its most popular item is Kokinisto Arni, or lamb shanks, while others include Paidakia, or lamb chops, and Solomos Skaras, or grilled salmon.
“But lamb shanks are our signature,” Kalyvas notes.
A selection of pastas and lighter fare such as soups, salads, and appetizers, as well as sharing platters, round out the menu. According to Kalyvas, the focus is on using traditional ingredients such as Greek oregano, rosemary, thyme and olive oil.
To add to the authentic feel, Taverna Agora hosts Greek nights every few months, bringing in live traditional music and dancing.
“They really like it,” he says of the restaurant’s steady clientele. “It’s a big success.”
Danielle Jackson is editor of Wake Living, Fifteen501 and Triad Living magazines.
(Lemon and egg-based soup)
2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2-cup diced onion
1/2-cup diced carrot
1/2-cup diced celery
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2/3-cup white rice
3 large eggs
1/4-cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken in a large pot with 2 quarts cold water, enough to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, skimming when necessary.
In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onions. Sweat onions until they’re clear and set aside.
When chicken is cooked through, remove from broth. Let chicken cool and pull meat from the bone, dicing into large cubes. Set aside.
Add onions, bay leaves, celery and carrots to broth and simmer for 2 hours. Strain broth and add rice, bring to a boil and turn heat to medium-high to simmer until rice is cooked, about 30 minutes. Add diced chicken to broth and rice mixture.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and lemon juice together. Add 2 cups of the broth slowly into the bowl, whisking continuously. Once the broth is incorporated, add the mixture into the pot of chicken soup and blend well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
(A dipping oil that makes about 1 cup)
1 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
1/2-teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2-teaspoon garlic powder
1/2-teaspoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve with freshly baked bread for dipping.
If you go
Taverna Agora is located at 6101 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh. The restaurant is open for dinner from 5-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To learn more, call (919) 881-8333 or visit www.tavernaagora.com.