West Palm Beach’s Old Northwood district has become a crossroads of cultural cuisines. Jamaican, Haitian, burgers, fresh seafood, French, Pan-Asian and classic American diner fare can all be found packed into just a few blocks. And three weeks ago, the food of the Mediterranean joined the party, with the opening of the Agora Market.
The cobalt-blue building, with its full-glass front, looks like a foodie aquarium. The color slows you down, and all that glass shows off what’s inside; like an open-air market stall in the Middle East, everything is displayed beautifully, and everything calls your name. And unlike that open-air stall, there’s air conditioning at Agora, along with tables and chairs for diners.
Agora sells primarily products from Turkey, with a few products from Italy,Albania, Bulgaria and elsewhere. You will find some fresh produce items, with an emphasis on items you would use to make salads (greens, vegetables and a few fruits). But the shop’s emphasis is Middle Eastern products:
- A range of pomegranate products (vinegar, molasses, glaze)
- Sweets (cookies, biscuits, and Turkish delight, a sticky treat made from a sugar and starch base with nuts mixed in, then flavored with lemon, rosewater, cinnamon, mint or other flavorings and dusted with icing sugar)
- Dried fruits (if you hate dates or apricots, the Turkish varieties will change your mind)
- Unusual items, such as pepper pastes, fermented carrot juice, and Turkish jams (their rose petal jam would wow your breakfast crowd), dozens of teas and several coffees, including Turkish coffee. You can also buy a cezve, the specialty pot used to brew Turkish coffee.
- Cheeses made from sheep’s and goat’s milk (try the sheep’s milk cheese blended with kalamata olives)
Speaking of olives, Agora offers eight varieties in bulk, plus olives in cans, jars and vacuum-packed plastic. Other bulk items include dried fruits, and spices such as black caraway seeds, cardamom, and tumeric. There’s a big basket of freshly-baked bread near the door, hot and mild sausages in the cooler and cold beverages, including several soft drinks and yogurt-based shakes from Turkey. It’s easy to put together a picnic with just a few items from Agora’s shelves, and you can head to the beach or a concert on Flagler Drive with a great meal.
But if you have time, sit in the market and eat. The gracious staff is happy to explain everything on the menu. It’s a very health-conscious selection, with cold vegetable and fish salads, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, shaka shaka (eggplant cubes with peppers, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil), borek (phyllo pastry stuffed with feta cheese and parsley or ground beef and onions) and lentils offered as a soup or patties. A sandwich at Agora can be just vegetables, chicken with roasted peppers and mozzarella cheese, or soudjouk (spicy sausage) and kashar (a cheese similar to mozzarella). Hot foods are available, but these items change daily; call ahead to see what’s offered.
Produce prices are very reasonable, considering the store’s size, and you won’t go broke buying a few items for tonight’s dinner. Grocery items will not be inexpensive, but remember, everything on the shelves is imported. As for the menu items, soups are $3, appetizers $3.50 to $6.50, salads $4 to $8 and platters and sandwiches $5 tp $10.
The Old Northwood district gets better and better with every visit, because more small businesses are making a case for opening here. The Agora Market proves once again that great food flourishes in tough times and once-tougher neighborhoods.
Agora Mediterreanean Market, 2505 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach. Phone (561)-366-0038. FAX: (561)-366-4006. Hours: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Sunday. Catering and delivery available.