This is a lovely little gem that my wife and I stumbled upon when we moved to 15th Ave a few years ago. It has an interesting setting that marries a boutique Mediterranean wine and grocery to a small restaurant bar.
In their shop there is a selection of pasta, cheese, deli items, condiments and wine, but I’m not here to talk about the shop. Don’t get me wrong, I went in to the place intrigued by the appearance of a boutique Mediterranean shop. I am here to talk about their food, wine and restaurant culture.
The first time we decided to get dinner at Agora, it was shortly after we moved to 15th ave in Capitol Hill. We sat down at one of their two small booth tables and we ordered a few items from the menu including a spread sampler, white gigantes, sardine bruscetta and lamb sliders. While I was impressed with our dinner, we were both very distracted by this group of 60 year olds chatting and laughing away sitting at the bar. The sense of easiness, friendliness and their familiarity with each other was so infectious. They seemed to have found a community in this little restaurant. Both my wife and I laughed at the fact that we were secretly feeling a little jealous– Seattle is not known to be the most friendly or inclusive. But inside Agora, friendliness and inclusiveness seemed a little more acceptable than out there on the streets.
When spring arrived to Seattle this year and the days got longer and sunnier, we became eager to be outside and visit our favorite restaurants like Agora in the neighborhood. As we walk through the front door, we were immediately greeted warmly by Nikos, the waiter, bartender and shop owner. We sat down next to a middle aged woman eating by herself. My wife immediately struck up a conversation with her. Coming from the Midwest, my wife loves the fact that it feels perfectly ok to make conversation like that in Agora, countering to the more typical, aloof Seattle culture. We ordered meatballs, Bureaki and stuffed eggplant. While the meatballs and stuffed eggplant were delicious, we were blown away by the Bureaki, which is ground lamb meat stuffed in phyllo. As we sip the wine we selected from several samplers recommended by Nikos and eat the delicious meal in front of us, the conversation with our new friend and Nikos became more and more engaging. We swapped our travel stories and engaged with Nikos and our fellow diner in a conversation on the the evolution of Seattle, Mediterranean food and wine culture. Before we know it, we were the only customers left in the shop. We concluded the night by exchanging contact information and the promise to cross paths again in the future.
Why do I like The Shop Agora? Of course, it’s the delicious food and wine, but the restaurant is taken to a new level because it’s a place that encourages community and conversation. At the center of it is Nikos, our super friendly bartender and shop owner. He chimed in at appropriate times to keep conversation flowing and keep the atmosphere lively. He made the restaurant a place where people in the neighborhood can meet and make friends. Will we be going back to Agora? You bet.
Where: 346 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98112
Cost: Including food, wine and tip, a little over $100 for the two of us. We do eat a lot food.
Parking: street parking