A matinee trip to see Dunkirk left us with a Saturday evening luxury: Time for a real dinner out. The goal was to try someplace new – to us, at least — and it came down to Taverna Mediterranean Grill. We’ve seen several restaurants open with a Mediterranean menu, especially in Rome (Jerusalem Grill and Middle Eastern Cafe and Sweets, and we like both). We checked the menu and decided to try Taverna, which opened on the west side of downtown Cartersville in February. Several friends have talked it up so it was time to experiment.
Location: By western side of downtown, we mean off Main Street before the turn to the real western edges of the city. We mean across the street from the landmark Agan’s Bakery. We mean a decent walk from the bustling downtown Cartersville car show on Saturday. The building has a few other tenants, some of which have changed over the years. We think the landlords have found a keeper with Taverna as we’ll be back. Here’s why:
Atmosphere: Open and earthy. We were early enough to get a table by the spacious front windows with Main Street just beyond. The spot is large, open — and spotless. The front and side windows add a a nice, open atmosphere, especially as the tables aren’t stacked atop of each other. (Translation: you’d need assistance to hear the conversations of surrounding diners even though a lively crowd was on hand). Also, the mix of furnishings was nice: Tables with chairs, some of which had been distressed but likely came with different dining ensembles. It helped contribute to a modern feel as well.
Alcohol: The list of cocktails, wine and beer is appreciable. You’re not given a book to read in a split second. You know what the draught and craft beer selections are, what type of wines are available (glass or bottle) and cocktails as well. Our advice: Try the red sangria (pictured). It was big and refreshing on a warm summer evening. It was $6 per glass (we thought it listed at $7 but didn’t complain) and it was the best we’ve had since Fusco’s in Acworth.
Entrees: We’re not big on appetizers but a full selection is available — and unique at that. See the menu button below for more. Our meals were Moussaka (called Greek lasagna by some with layers of pasta, meat, potatoes with a great bechamel sauce) and Chicken Caprese (grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, pesto, sliced tomatoes). Both were excellent. It wasn’t like the Moussaka we were used to but it was very good, especially the sauce. The chicken really was grilled (you could taste it) and wonderfully arranged. The “village” salad was unique: cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, Greek olives, peppers, Feta — and no lettuce or kale. (That’s the salad bowl in the above photo showing the Sangria).
Dessert: The lava chocolate cake, split by two of us, was good. It wasn’t what we expected (the “hot” chocolate inside) and was more of a mini-bunt cake with generous drippings of chocolate. It still satisfied (p.s., we hear mini bunt cakes are the new cupcakes).
Service: Excellent. Very attentive; nice timing between salads and entrees; suggestions on drinks and desserts but never pushy.
Tax, tag and title: $55 including the tip. That includes the two Sangrias, $13.95 for the chicken entree and $9.99 for the Moussaka, and $6.95 for the lava cake.
What you need to know: This isn’t fast food or even a notch above that; this is traditional dining in a comfortable atmosphere. Ethnic dishes include Moussaka as well as spaghetti Vesuvius (served with a tempting six-ounce meat ball), gyro platters and sandwiches, salads, rack of lamb, seafood and a special spin on burgers and wings. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, lunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m, dinner, 5-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, until 10 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Mondays. See menus, Lunch / Dinner).