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Love Local: Updated Agora Mediterranean Brings New Twists and Old Faves



The Ozelci family started serving up their brand of Mediterranean cuisine in the early 1990s on the Atlanta festival circuit, operating from tents and food trucks. As Mehmet "Memo" Ozelci recalls, it was a grind. And the road environment took a toll on his dad's well-being. 

But then an opportunity came along to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Buckhead. And that's where Cafe Agora’s origin story began. The Buckhead location has been around for 18 years. The second location opened in Midtown 10 years ago in the Commercial Row building along Peachtree Place, and it quickly developed a loyal following among daytime workers as a lunch spot. 

The Midtown location has undergone big changes in recent months and reopened with expanded offerings. We caught up with Memo to find out how the renovated space and the updated menu turned out.

Mr. Everything

Memo describes himself as "the guy that does whatever needs to be done." His parents are the owners, and he acts as the head of operations. 

“I could be in the front helping the bar at one point, greeting guests at another, at the back of the line working in the kitchen at another,” he said. “Whatever needs to be done at that moment, that's my job.”

According to Memo, when the family opened the Midtown location, they were the only ones doing fast Mediterranean. 

"Spending this much time and detail on a location is a first for us," Memo said. "But Midtown is a good fit. It's just being around pleasant people and people who are appreciative. It makes the work not feel like work. It makes the 14-hour days easier. It makes everything easier. The struggles of this business diminish when you're dealing with pleasant people. And Midtown is a very pleasant place."

But within a few years, other competitors began entering the category. 

"The trend for Mediterranean was shifting to more service," he said. "And our Buckhead location had already been service for years and years. So at the Midtown location we decided to emulate Buckhead. But do it bigger and better when it comes to the finer details."

Trading Spatulas and Spoons for Hammers and Saws

The opportunity came to expand into the adjacent space after another tenant vacated. But construction and renovation work in the restaurant business brings challenges. Ultimately, the build-out took 13 months from end to end, with food service operations (and therefore revenue) offline in Midtown for much of it.   

"Well, if you ask anybody who's dealt with construction, it's tough," Memo said. "Super tough. Super expensive. It's just one of those things where you have to be organized and ready for whatever the day is going to throw at you. The fact that it is a historical building created some challenges, but the Atlanta History Center was more than willing to work with us."

The decked-out interior feels light and airy inside, with Mediterranean themes that feel authentic because they really are. All of the furnishings - the tables the chairs, the serviceware, the lighting, the decor - were brought over from Turkey. According to Memo, even the refrigeration system comes from Turkey.

The new-look Agora reopened its doors in October. How has business been going so far?

"We were aiming to open earlier in the warmer season, but, still, things are going fine," Memo said. “We have a lot of positive feedback from the neighborhood, which is the most important thing. Getting the word out there is still going to happen." 

Elevated Flavor Comes Through in Cocktails and Sauces

The finer details and shift to service show up in some of the investments the Ozelcis have made. Like bringing in a consultant from Turkey to help them create their cocktail menu. 

They make their own lime cordial, a lime and lemon juice-infused sauce that's the base for all of their cocktails. Agora also features a bell pepper cordial, which tastes like bell peppers and star anise. And a tamarind cocktail made with tamarind syrup that they make in-house. Plus the team makes their own organic-infused sauces and garnishes.

“The flavor profiles we have here you really cannot find anywhere else,” Memo said.

Menu Brings New Twists … But Also Familiar Standards

So for the loyal customers that used to know Cafe Agora, can they still get some of the same items from the old menu?

“Yes, you can get exactly the same things at lunchtime,” Memo said. “At dinner time, we have an updated menu. Then, on Saturdays and Sundays we are offering a new Turkish Brunch that we're trying to introduce to the neighborhood. So we now have three separate menus.”

Plaza Space Outside Agora Designed to Create Foot Traffic

In 2022, Midtown Alliance worked with the Atlanta History Center and the businesses in Commercial Row to create the enhancements you see in the plaza space outside Agora Mediterranean Cuisine. In addition to realigning the intersection at Peachtree Street and Peachtree Place, the upgrades brought new trees and landscaping plus lighting and colorful tables and chairs. 

While the revamped Agora has only been open for a few months, Memo sees what the plaza enhancements can do to help the restaurant thrive, beginning with the Acoustic Wednesdays music series that features performers out on the plaza from 5-7pm during warmer months. 

"Especially on Wednesdays when there's live music, people could come in and get a drink or get food to go, and enjoy it out at the outdoor tables when the weather permits," he said. "It's all positive, and us being right in front of it is a huge bonus. And many of the musicians that Midtown Alliance books for these performances are super-talented."

Special Offers Fill Agora’s Weekly Calendar

Agora hosts a Happy Hour seven days a week from 4:30-6:30pm that features 30% off appetizers and wines. On Monday nights, all bottles of wine are half off. And the weekends offer Turkish Brunch. As Memo describes it, Agora’s Turkish Brunch is a spread of different cheeses, homemade jams and olives, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. The meal is served with Agora’s own breads, and includes a traditional egg dish that you choose from, like the dried Turkish sausage with eggs or menemen, which is a traditional Turkish scramble. 

“We're here to serve,” said Memo. “We want to be that place where people in the neighborhood can gather and then bump into somebody they know.” 

Find Agora Mediterranean Cuisine at: 

92 Peachtree Place NE

Atlanta, GA 30309

One block east of the Midtown MARTA station on Peachtree Place

Weekdays, 11am-3pm and 5-10pm

Weekends, 11am-2:45pm and 4-11pm Saturday, 4-9pm Sunday


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