About 10 years after its initial debut in Dupont Circle, Mediterranean restaurant Agora is expanding to Northern Virginia.
While the establishment is new, the idea definitely isn’t. Owner and Alexandria-local Ismail Uslu began his search for a second place nearly five years ago.
“We are a successful restaurant and it was always in my head to open a second location,” says Uslu. “I love our Northern Virginia customers and they often ask why I don’t open one.”
Uslu, from a small town on the coast of Turkey, started his career in the food industry on his family’s farm, where he helped with the daily production of honey, olive oil and cheese. After years in DC’s culinary scene, and help from his partner, executive chef Ghassan Jarrouj, a Lebanese native who has nearly 50 years in the restaurant industry, he opened Agora in 2010.
While the Tysons menu will feature a similar slate of small-plates spanning the countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Greece—new items include zucchini blossoms, shish barak (dumplings), kibbeh nayah (minced raw lamb with bulgur) and knafeh (sweet pastry layered with cheese)—the space is where the real change lies.
“We built our restaurant from scratch,” says Uslu. “I brought all of the millwork and decorational artwork from Turkey. Everything is custom made for the place.” Each piece of material reflects traditional Turkish design, with deep red and brown hues and baroque patterns inspired by native culture.
New to Tysons is the 12-seat kitchen bar that gives diners the chance to watch meals be prepared right in front of them. According to Uslu, it is essential to him that guests are part of the culinary experience. Brunch, lunch and late-night dining will launch in a few months.
For drinks, the restaurant’s extensive wine list, featuring mainly Turkish, Lebanese and Greek vintages, will remain, and there’s a new focus on cocktails and raki, Turkish vodka.
As the business has grown, so has Uslu’s family. He and his wife live in Alexandria with their two young children and while he plans on eventually expanding the business in the DMV area, family comes first.
“I want to balance life and work, which in the restaurant business is tough,” says Uslu. “But if I can balance it out, the goal is five restaurants in the Northern Virginia area.” // Opening in June; Agora: 7911 Westpark Drive, McLean
Want more food news? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.