THE DISH: Roya Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar


• Tomato mozzarella caprese salad — Fresh basil, balsamic reduction, fresh mozzarella and olive oil, $8

• Steak pita flatbread — Steak, feta cheese, red onion and tzatziki sauce, $9

• Roasted lamb — Baked boneless lamb, seasonal vegetables and saffron basmati rice, $20

• Tilapia sunshine — Lightly breaded, gently fried and baked with angel hair pasta and alfredo sauce, $16


Roya Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar

Roya Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar

Roya Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar

2720 Mall of Georgia Blvd., Suite 106, Buford



• Open since: October

• Location: Roya is located on the backside of the Mall of Georgia and across the street from the North Gwinnett Tag Office.

• Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays

• Owners: The Raffi family

• Atmosphere: When walking into Roya, guests first see the host stand and the fully stocked bar, which offers a variety of liquors and bottled beers. The wine list, however, is even more impressive. There are wines from all over the world, including Italy, Greece and Spain. Many of the reds and whites were selected to compliment dishes on the menu. For pairings, ask your server.

The inside of the restaurant is painted with dark blacks, purples and creams with metallic accents on the walls, tables and doorways. The seats lining the walls have pillows and each table has a candle, creating a romantic atmosphere. It's never loud or chaotic, so couples can tuck away into corners for a quiet, intimate dinner.

The best nights to come are during the week because the weekends are very busy.

• Menu: The menu is a blend of Italian, Greek and Mediterranean cuisines. Roya has two chefs, McDowell of Los Angeles and Raffi of Atlanta, who collaborated to create the final selection of salads, tapas, entrees and desserts. There is a large influence from the Raffi family as well.

The restaurant prides itself on always having fresh food and produce to make each dish from scratch. A few of the signature dishes include the traditional shish (grilled beef filets) and koobideh (grilled ground beef) kabobs, a play on osso bucco and both pork and chicken souvlakis (marinated meat) served with a homemade tzatziki sauce, which consists of Greek yogurt, garlic, fresh herbs and cucumbers.

There are a few things on the menu that many Americans may not have heard of. Ask the staff or the owners to explain anything if you have questions. If you're really interested about an item, the staff will grab you a sample.

For those who aren't ready to get out of their food comfort zone, there are plenty of other menu items that are easily recognizable, like shrimp scampi, lasagna, chicken parmigiana and gyros.

Roya also has a pastry chef who works daily on the dessert selection, which includes a rich, sweet pastry called baklava which is made of layers of filo dough filled with walnuts and syrup.

-- Things you might not know: The Raffi family has owned three other restaurants in Gwinnett County in the past 30 years.