My first continental European vacation was to the Greek Islands whilst living in London. I was a backpacker on a tight budget with friend’s and we island hopped, beach bummed, and danced on the tables of Ios nightclubs.
Although, back in 1997, the islands were cheap, my budget didn’t extend to eating out at restaurants often. We mostly devoured the cheap and delicious gyros we found in village alleyways and food carts.
Except on one occasion, we splurged on sharing a mouthwatering BBQ whole snapper at a restaurant with views of the turquoise water and complete with Greek music and the ubiquitous blue and white tablecloths. Ah, the tastes and colors of Greece are hard to match!
It was the kind of trip a 21 year soaks up and remembers forever and plants the seed for seeking a life full of cultural experiences like this.
As our sights turn to flying from Raleigh to Europe for our family vacations next year, the Greek Islands are on the list for our first trip, and one way we like to prepare for our dreams is to act as if they are real.
Raise your glass of retsina with an Opa and join us as we walk you through what makes Taverna Agora one of the best places to eat in Raleigh.
Authentic Gathering Place
Owner, Lou Moshakos, is a native of Lykovrisi, a small village in Greece outside of Sparta. His love for connecting over good food inspired him to create this homely, family-centered restaurant that reflected its name.
In Greek, a taverna is a small restaurant and agora means a central gathering place.
Taverna Agora Raleigh was born from his frustration of not being able to find good local Greek food in Raleigh!
In 2003, he opened Taverna Agora on Glenwood Ave and moved to its current home in 2015 after recognizing the opportunity to be placed in the middle of Raleigh’s revitalization. His location on Hillsborough St connects Glenwood South to the Warehouse District.
Moshakos is the savvy restaurateur behind LM Restaurants, Inc. Founded with a Florida seafood restaurant in 1978, it now boasts 35 restaurants and 2,000 employees throughout the Southeast, including the Carolina Ale House chain and the popular Mediterranean restaurant, Vidrio on Glenwood South, which we are still yet to try!
In my opinion, Taverna Agora has the best restaurant patio in Raleigh. This open-air Mediterranean Oasis overlooks Hillsborough St and is a tastefully designed, tree-shaded space with lush green vines wrapped around trellises, classic Greek Statues, and olive trees.
The rooftop is winterized so you can enjoy it year-round, and you’ll find shaded areas to sit during the warmer months.
Downstairs is the more enclosed taverna part of the restaurant, which maintains the typical village style Greek restaurant with the same table decorations and feel.
True to the Greek Mediterranean flavors, you’ll find your favorite traditional Greek dishes like moussaka, Spanakopita, and baklava.
Lamb (our favorite) features heavily on the menu, and you’ll find chicken, seafood, and rib eye dishes. Check the Taverna Agora menu online in case of changes.
We love starting with the Greek Spreads Trio: a sample of Taverna Agora’s best dips: tzatziki, spicy feta, and eggplant. Served with pita or vegetables for the gluten free version.
The dinner and lunch menus vary slightly, and we have not experienced dinner at Taverna Agora yet. My lunch favorite is the grilled octopus and moussaka. Craig loves the lamb burger, and the chicken kabobs are the most popular dish on the menu.
Tell us your favorite dish on the menu in the comments below! We’d love to try it on our next visit.
Sunday Brunch at Taverna Agora is the only brunch spot in Raleigh we’ve visited multiple times. You just can’t beat the complete experience, especially for special occasions, and especially when mimosas are only $3.
You’ll find some of the lunch items on the menu plus a few delicious breakfast options. Gyros comes in a variety of versions: scrambled, frittata, omelet, or traditional pita.
Craig loved his Gyros Benedict, and my lamb sweet potato was one to remember. Also the Baked Eggs and Pita (shakshuka style) is good.
There’s one meal the girls order with each brunch visit: Homemade doughnuts (loukoumades) drizzled with baklava syrup and topped with cinnamon, powdered sugar, and chopped walnuts. Oh, and the Baklava Sticky Buns.
Be sure to reserve ahead as it gets busy. Brunch is every Sunday from 11am to 3pm.
Retsina Greek Wine
How had I never heard of this ancient Greek wine before? I was not a wine drinker back when I was 21, so didn’t pay any attention to this white (or rosé) resinated wine, which has been made for at least 2,000 years.
After the first sip of its earthy, herbal flavors I was hooked on this wine that told stories.
It’s made mostly in Central Greece, where pine trees surround the vineyards. Its unique flavor comes from pine resin that is added during vinification and seals the wine vessels.
Can you think of a better wine to drink in a city that is filled with pine trees? That deserves an Opa for sure!
(The wine menu is extensive and features many other Greek wines).
Refreshing is the vodka blueberry lemonade made with basil, also served as a mocktail for the kids. Our girls love it.
You’ll also find modern Greek twists to your cocktails. Try the popular Greek Mule Cocktail made with lime juice, baklava syrup and ginger beer. Or how about a Greek coffee?
Michael Garcia, general manager of Taverna recommends the Greek Sangria as his favorite drink. “It’s not overly sweet, has a fine citrus balance, and is a very refreshing drink for these warm days in Raleigh.”
There was a Greek restaurant in London my friends and I would go to for special occasions. At some point in the evening, the whole restaurant would get up, hold hands, and dance around the tables.
It brought such joy to the dining experience with friends and strangers as we all laughed and showed off our styles.
While there is no dancing at Agora Taverna…yet, or that I know of, I love the warm, friendly, and casual ambiance of the restaurant. The Greek music they have playing instantly transports me to the islands and those fun moments shared with friends.
The ambiance is very authentic to the small villages on the Greek Isles, right down to the music, the attentive service, the blue and white checkered tablecloths, Greek statues, and olive trees and hanging vines.
But in keeping with the Raleigh vibe, there’s also gorgeous 200-year-old oak trees covering the terrace giving a stunning City of Oaks forest feel.
I feel so happy eating at this restaurant as it brings me back to happy Greek Island memories, while reminding me of why we chose this wonderful city to live in.
Other restaurants in Raleigh we love
Let us know if you’ve dined at the Taverna Agora restaurant? What dish or drink do you recommend?