Do you have children? If so, have you ever experienced one of those Friday nights when you suddenly realize that every one of them has a sleepover, and not at your house? In other words, you and your spouse are free, free, free like birds.
Spontaneous date night!
My wife and I found ourselves in this situation last week as we were both in our cars, driving kids around to various social engagements. We called each other and went, “Oh. It’s just us tonight.” So we decided to meet in Buckhead and plan a meal from there.
Standing in front of the new, intriguing, but definitely not spontaneous-date-night-worthy Kind Pie (an organic-minded pizza place with no seating), we considered a couple of nearby restaurants I wanted to try.
One was Cafe Agora. Turkish food I had heard was good. Small, edge-of-scuzz storefornt. Harsh overhead neon lights. Large deli case in front. Backlit menu board with pictures of food on it. It seemed like a gyro shop in New York’s Theater District — not a bad thing, but perhaps not date night.
Two was Seasons 52. Fancy multi-unit chain. Elegant atmosphere. Friendly hostess. Intriguing menu that promises a stringent monitoring of calorie counts and nutritional content in the prepared dishes. I love the idea of going out to eat and being reassured that the food would be healthy as what we prepare at home. Total middle-aged date night place.
So, why did we end up at Cafe Agora? It felt more real, more our speed.
The food was great. We ordered what seemed to be the “spontaneous date night menu.” We started with the mixed appetizer plate ($12.20, above), featuring an assortment of icebox-cold, sparkling fresh Middle Eastern salads — all so clean, so confidently seasoned and unified by the fruity taste of good olive oil. Hummus and baba ghanouj shared the plate with ezme (diced tomatoes and peppers with crunchy walnuts), havuc ezme (blanched carrots shreds in a creamy dill yogurt), piyaz (white bean and potato salad) and cacik (a lovely kissing cousin to Greek tzatziki). Chopped squares of warm, fluffy pita came on the side on one of those cheap-o corrugated paper plates.
(Note to middle-aged self: Spontaneous date night is best when it reminds you of poor student date night.)
We then shared this mixed grill platter ($14.95), otherwise known as meat-chunk-o-rama. Dry but well seasoned chicken, juicy lamb, köfte (seasoned ground lamb — delicious) and gyro meat sat piled high. On the side: a super-tasty salad of romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cukes, olives and feta cheese in more of that good olive oil. Hot meat, sandy with lip-tingling spices, and icy-crisp salad make a good combination.
We drank $5 glasses of damp-earth-tasting Turkish wine. The owner brought little gratis squares of baklava for dessert, so we ordered sweet, dark Turkish coffees and drank them to the grounds.
It’s kind of nice having a kid-free evening in a dumpy restaurant, eating delicious food with your partner. I highly recommend it.