While the décor has been adapted to fit a Mexican theme, the layout Agave, at Eton Square, 61st and Memorial, fits the template of the former establishment, Uno's Pizza.
The space is very large and roomy, which I find a plus when dining. Booths are the first to be occupied, upon request, it seems. I have been here twice--once hoping to check out the tequila bar only to find none, for the liquor license had yet to be attained, and the second after the license was attained to sample the tequila, which what agave is all about, afterall.
My first trip was an early afternoon sometime ago. A friend and I met for lunch and had an enjoyable time. The service is good, and the food is better.
We munched on chips and salsa while our lunch of Steak Deluxe ($10) and Tacos De Carnitas ($8) were being prepared. The house salsa with the chips is a rich red, smooth and mild salsa, but the hot sauce is what is exceptional.
Most Mexican restaurants offer an assortment of salsas in a gradation of hot and spicy, but they may not be listed on the menu.
Ask for them, if you dare. Most of them are very fresh and flavorful and offer a new experience of taste. I take great pleasure in the extra hot salsa with chips, but even better is to mix the hot with the not so hot, or put a dab on my food. One tip on Agave's hot sauce: they don't kid around with that sauce.
My friend ordered the Steak Deluxe which is a ribeye steak with chorizo sausage on top. It is served with guacamole, rice and beans. The steak was pounded flat, said my friend, and just as described, was topped with little pieces of fried chorizo (coarsely chopped fatty pork and seasoned with a kick of Spanish paprika and chili).
While my friend enjoys both steak and chorizo, he offered a suggestion that the dish would be better with a chorizo sauce on top of the steak, such as a chorizo gravy.
As it was, the chorizo fell off the steak with each bite; it was a bit unwieldy to eat. Also he thought the flavors of steak and chorizo would mix better. Rice and beans came with his dish. The brown beans were creamy with few if any pieces of distinguishable beans. The rice was moist, yet loose and had a roasted flavor.
My Tacos De Carnitas was a plate of fried pork which had been treated with Agave's special seasonings; pico de gallo, salsa verde and beans also came with this dinner. The pieces of pork were larger than expected; they needed to be cut to fit the warm flour tortilla to make a taco.
But the seasoning on the pork was sensational! This combination of pork, pico and salsa verde made a tasty taco.
Line 'Em Up
My second trip to Agave was to sample the tequilas. The line-up on the menu is impressive. Besides the specialty Margaritas, some of which sound intriguing -- take for example the Margarita Vallarta, which is Chinaco Blanco tequila, Cointreau, tomato, grapefruit and orange juice - there are many other options of shots, drinks, beer and wine.
I asked my server to have the bartender select his preference for my Tequila Tasting, which is a sample of any three of Agave's blanco, reposado or añejo tequilas for $12.
The blanco tequilas are usually bottled directly after distillation or in some cases aged up to 60 days in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling. The reposado tequilas are aged in oak barrels for 3 months to one year, an aging process that gives the tequila its mellow flavor. The añejo tequilas are aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year. The oak barrels give these tequilas their distinct flavor and color, which makes them the most complex of all tequilas.
The bartender selected Corazon tequilas for me in each of the three types. Corazon de Agave Tequila is produced in the heart of the Blue Agave growing area of Mexico, known as the "Highlands."
The Corazon blanco (white, clear, really) offered the typical, lighter tequila taste. The reposado or "rested" tequila had a mellow taste with a pleasing bouquet and pale in color.
The Corazón de Agave añejo was the smoothest of the three; by sipping the tequila, I immediately experiences a rich complexity to it, with the slightest hint of vanilla, almond and spice undertones.
After that, I did order more chips and salsa and a meal to diffuse the tequila.
For tequila lovers, Agave is a must! The service is good, the food is better, and now the tequila is best!
Agave Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar
8221 U East 61st
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