Agora: Still Working Out the Kinks, But Oh Such Good Food 05.14.2013

You know what?  "Still Working Out the Kinks" could be the headline for so many restaurants I have visited recently.  They are all relatively new and while the food has been damn good at each one, the service ranged from mildly adequate to mediocre. Why does it take so long to work out the kinks?  WHY?!  And why don't human beings know how to be waiters and waitresses anymore?  I need answers, people.  

I am composing in my head a list of things wait staff should/should not do (same goes for the managers who train them), but in the mean are my thoughts on Agora.

Agora is a Mediterranean eatery near 17th and Q Streets in Washington, opened in 2010.  I was not focused on decor and photographing every little thing as I usually do, but was laser focused on the food.  Really, really fantastic flavors.  

There is a $14.99 lunch menu that starts with a spread sampler (hummus, cacik, and htipiti).  All of these are gluten free and delicious.  Htipiti is made of roasted red peppers, feta, thyme, and olive oil.  So. So. Good.  Years ago I used to make a htipiti with a serious kick – may have to dig out the recipe.  The cacik is made of yogurt, dill, cucumber, vinegar, garlic, and olive oil and is intense, in a good way of course.

Next up on the lunch special is a selection of sandwiches, wraps, or meat entrees. I went with shish tavuk and boy did I make the right choice.  The four pieces of chicken breast are marinated with grilled tomato and sumac onion on garlic pita bread.  What Agora needs to add to this description is that a garlic spread is generously slathered on the pita bread.  And despite the slathering, I wanted more. You cannot have enough garlic.

A waiter passed by our table and I requested more garlic spread.  He said he would get on it, but it never materialized. The place was filling up, but still.  A lady shouldn’t be kept waiting for garlic spread.  

Then our waiter came by, I asked for garlic spread.  This is what he said:  “Just give me a minute…we’re slammed.”  And then he walked away.  As a former waitress, I am fairly confident that this is not okay.  No excuses.  Just say yes and find someone to take care of the garlic spread.  I don’t want to know how busy you are; I’m busy too.  

Finally, the garlic spread arrived with more apologies for the delay.

At check time, the waiter apologized again and said it was as if everyone arrived at once.  My lunch companion, Leigh, who has less patience than me for these shenanigans, said:  “Well…that’s what happens at lunch.”  I was being all nice and understanding, but not Leigh.  And she’s right.   We’re in DC – not Paris.  Lunch is pretty regular and uptight, and, generally, around noon, there is a lunch crowd.  Be prepared.

At a meal, if I turn my head in search of the waiter more than a few times, it’s a bust.  I turned my head multiple times.

So, was the garlic spread worth the wait?  Sure.  It was mind-blowingly garlicy and I was blissed out.  

I may head back to Agora and hang out at the bar for the fantastic, fresh appetizers, but, mostly due to proximity, it’s not going to be in my regular stable of restaurants.  If I lived anywhere around 17th and Q Streets, it would be a different story.  Despite the long wait for the garlic spread.

The lunch special is three courses with a beverage (soda, coffee, or tea).

Go.  Eat the food.  Hopefully they work out the kinks.

Agora Restaurant
1527 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

(202) 332-6767

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