When you have twin brothers, it’s kind of a big deal; when those twin brothers turn twenty-five, the birthday celebration is a huge deal! Coming from the Atlanta foodie family that the three of us come from, this birthday party was destined to be centered around fantastic Hotlanta eats, but never did we imagine what else we were getting into. We loaded up about twenty deep in North Atlanta and headed over to Cheshire Bridge Road where Taverna Plaka parks itself on the side of this very busy thoroughfare. We were greeted with valet parking and blaring Greek music that could be heard as soon as the car doors opened. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I looked up and happened to notice a very old gentleman sitting on the Taverna Plaka patio, sliding a dollar bill into a belly dancer’s waistline, while everyone laughed, clapped, and yelled “Opa!” A smile spread across my face because I knew that the night was going to be interesting, if nothing else, and that I definitely wasn’t in Savannah anymore.
The music inside of Taverna Plaka played even louder, and the large groups were even rowdier. This definitely isn’t a restaurant for a quiet, first date, or a romantic night out. A big group of fun-loving people is a must! Fire swirled and belly dancers shook, while having an impeccable knack for coercing diners onto the tables to test out their belly dancing skills. The twin birthday boys were quickly shaking their hips on top of our table, followed not long after by our own mother! I took a quick glance around our whole table, and everyone from parents, grandmother, friends, couples, and kids were all laughing, smiling, and having a grand time!
Now, for most novelty restaurants like Taverna Plaka, the review would stop here. Many spend so much time on the entertainment of a place like this that they fail to make the food as great as the fun being had. Not Taverna Plaka! After receiving a round of drinks, waiters set several mortars and pestles in front of us filled with warm chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. We were instructed to mash the mixture, and we were soon spreading this delectable hummus over pita bread. The hummus was simple and fresh, but full of flavor and texture. I loved that it was mashed and not pureed. It made me not want my usual store-bought hummus ever again! More waiters arrived, lighting plates of cheese on fire with the Greek spirit Ouzo, a licorice flavored aperitif that is obviously highly flammable. As the flames subsided, the cheese turned chewy and pliable. We all dove into the warm cheese, pulling it apart with our hands and topping bread with it. All the while, the music continued to ring out, the dancers wobbled all around the tables, and yells of “Opa!” sustained throughout the separate crowds.
Dinner was served by another myriad of waiters. One thing Taverna Plaka did well was made sure everyone was served at the same time, despite the size (or rowdiness) of the party. I ordered the Moussaka, an eggplant, zucchini, and potato dish layered up like lasagna with ground beef. It’s then covered in a rich béchamel sauce, and baked. It was served hot enough so that you could smell the hints of cinnamon or nutmeg in this savory dish. The portion was huge, and I found out the next day that the Moussaka, like lasagna, only gets even better the second time around. With twenty people sitting around me – most of which I have known for ten or more years, the foodie in me had to put my fork into a few more dishes. I sampled the Stuffed Eggplant, which was a vegetarian dish stuffed with tomatoes, garlic, and onions. I also tasted the Roasted Lamb, or as they like to called it, Arnaki Sto Fourno. At first I was trying to be polite when someone asked if I wanted to try it, “Oh ok, maybe just a little bite.” After one taste, throwing manners aside, I quickly accepted the offer to chow down on the rest of his plate since he was full. The lamb was exotically fragrant and tender. The food at Taverna Plaka was shockingly exceptional and fantastically authentic.
I know my twin brothers had a memorable twenty-fifth birthday, and I think all the rest of us will remember that night of double trouble too. Memories of brightly colored dancers, flaming cheese, and shots of Ouzo flash in my brain when I reminisce on Tavena Plaka. If you’re looking for an exciting night with a large group of friends, whether it’s a birthday party, bachelor/bachelorette party, or just a big get together of friends, Taverna Plaka is a novel place to be in Northeast Atlanta. Get a taste of the fun at their website www.tavernaplakaatlanta.com; view the menu, browse through galleries of pictures, and shake your hips to the Greek music that comes blaring at you. Taverna Plaka serves dinner nightly, beginning at 5:00 pm, with a “Late Night” party, including a DJ, beginning at midnight on Friday and Saturdays, for those of you who really want a wild night. Next time you’re up in Atlanta and you’re looking for an eclectic experience, check them out at 2196 Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta, Georgia. Opa!