For a taste of Mexico in the heart of Downtown Long Beach, look no further than Agaves Kitchen & Tequila. This urban chic establishment is adorned with an impressive portrait, depicting Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, and a mural for the plant that is native to Central Mexico, the agave. Known for its extensive drink menu and the 100 types of tequila they serve, Agaves is the ideal place to have a drink or two with friends or co-workers. The spicy De La Casa Margarita, which utilizes habanero syrup, turns up the heat for all the thrill seekers. For a cooler palette, the Mexican Mule is a south-of-the-border twist of the famed Mule, featuring Corralejo Repo tequila, fresh cucumber, agaves nectar, citrus, and ginger beer. The entrée menu features an array of Mexican delicacies that are comparable to the dishes served on the beaches of Rosarito like the Mariscos Ceviche: shrimp, bay scallops and calamari, all prepared in the traditional way of an orange and lime juice marinade, and its Taquera (or street taco) menu showcases carne asada achiote, char-broiled chicken, carnitas, beer battered fish, shrimp, and grilled seasonal vegetable options. Whether you are looking to sample its many types of tequila or simply looking for a delicious Mexican meal, Agaves Kitchen & Tequila is the absolute choice.Read More ...
Located in downtown Long Beach along the busy main street is Agaves Kitchen Tequila, owned by restaurateur Adrian Amosa. A beautiful, modern tequila bar and Mexican restaurant, Agaves provides an upscale yet casual dining experience, or simply an exotic night out, no matter the preference. There is ample amount of free parking for stays less than two hours located on the side streets, surrounding the main road on which Agaves is located. My dining companion and I easily find our way along the rows of boutiques and other shops to the main doors. Located right next door to its sister restaurant Gaucho Grill, Agaves opened its doors in June 2012 as a part of the movement to revive Pine Ave as one of the premier destinations in Southern California.
Just outside the front door is a small patio with seating for several parties, ideal for families with children and those who enjoy people watching. Heat lamps are strategically placed throughout the patio to provide a warm cover from Long Beach’s sometimes chilly nights, and tables equipped with an umbrella defend patrons from the late afternoon sun. As we walk through the large glass doors, we are greeted by upbeat, modern music that complements the laidback, contemporary interior. The dining room is framed by large windows facing the main street, and the black walls are lined with murals of street art. The tables and chairs are made of wood, providing a beautiful, classy contrast to the vivid art portrayed throughout the restaurant. A large golden sculpture of an agave plant sits above the booths across from the windows, as well as several cases displaying several of the tequilas available at the bar.
Boasting over 100 types of tequila, from Patrón and Don Julio to Jose Cuervo and Avión – in addition to a few domestic and imported beers like Blue Moon and Corona for those who aren’t in love with the hard liquor. The bar is full of life; patrons enjoying happy hour, which lasts into the early evening and all day Sunday, and watching sports highlights on ESPN on the two large flat screen televisions, framed by various liquor bottles. The cocktail menu features several types of margaritas, house specialty and traditional cocktails that play with different spices like chipotle and jalapeno, such as carioca mojitos and Bacardi frescos. Agaves like to add its own twist to traditional cocktails as well, like its Bloody Mary that feature tequila instead of the classic vodka spirit.
Agaves opened under the eye of general manager Miguel Baeza, former manager at Café Sevilla for 12 years, who cheerfully welcomes us with his charming Barcelonan accent as we take in the restaurant’s atmosphere. He leads us to a booth just below the large agave sculpture, which is adjacent to the bar and facing the large, dimly lit dining room that creates a feeling of intimacy, despite the plentiful booths along all the walls and tables throughout the center. Once Miguel is assured that my companion and I are satisfied with our seats, he leaves us to browse the menu and soak in the ambiance. A few minutes later we are officially welcomed by James, our server, who is a lively young man and obviously passionate about the food served here from the way he describes every dish with lavish detail. He graciously answers any questions we throw at him about the menu, and when he is uncertain about a particular aspect he rushes off to the kitchen to ask the chef himself, Agustin Garcia.
Featuring a modern twist on traditional Mexican cuisine, the menu offers appetizers like the Quesadilla with Carne Asada and Taquitos with Shredded Brisket or Chicken. Three different Ceviches, several soups, and salads are available for those looking to stay on the lighter side. The Agaves version of Street Tacos have a gourmet twist with Pork Confit or Grilled Vegetables for the vegetarian. There are also fresh enchiladas, and house specialties like Camarones Al Mojo (marinated shrimp) and La Tablita (seasoned steak). There is a special menu for happy hour featuring drink and food specials. Sunday through Thursday, Agaves is open from 4:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. On the weekends, hours are extended to 2:00 a.m. The happy hour menu, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m, includes $5 house margaritas and tacos for $2.50, among other specials, and is available all day Sunday and Monday.
To start, James brings us a large basket of warm chips, thick and fresh, with a light layer of salt clinging to each piece. Alongside the chips are two salsas, served in small black stone dishes. The first, a green salsa, is smooth and not too spicy, but very refreshing, with a hint of roasted poblano pepper and lime. The second salsa, a chunkier red, is much spicier and flakes of charred red peppers create a complexity that is rare in a traditional hot salsa. We have to slow ourselves in order to avoid overeating before our first course, and luckily at this moment Miguel brings us three drinks: the Pineapple Chipotle from the Infused Tequila selection, Mercadito from the Margarita menu, and Mexican Mule, a house specialty. The Pineapple Chipotle is fruity, with a slight smokiness from the chipotle that immediately sends me to a beach in Mexico. It is not too sweet and although the tequila is apparent, it is not astringent as alcohol can sometimes get when left to stand on its own. Unlike the Pineapple Chipotle, the Mercadito offers a different flavor experience. It is served on the rocks, and the spiciness from the jalapeno is soothed by the cool cucumber, leaving just a remnant of heat that is pleasant and doesn’t burn. Finally, the Mexican Mule has a refreshing burst of ginger that would serve well as a palate cleanser between bites along with the cucumber and lime notes that cool the tequila flavor.
James soon arrives with our appetizer, the Albondigas en Salsa Chipotle — meatballs bathed in a brick red chipotle sauce. Served in a square cast iron skillet on a large white plate, the meatballs are doused and surrounded by a dark red, almost brown chipotle sauce and topped with crispy peppers and a light sprinkling of cheese. The albondigas themselves are extremely tender, and James lets us know that this is thanks to the combination of ground beef and pork that provides just enough fat to keep them moist through the cooking process. The sauce is mild but flavorful, creating a wonderful balance between heat and spice with the spicy peppers on top of the dish that complements the meat rather than overwhelming it. The cheese is light and present, but is more of an accent to the dish than a major player, making this much lighter than I would have expected. Although it is a small dish, the plate is perfect for sharing, with a few meatballs for each of us.
Just as the meatballs disappear, James presents us with the Ceviche Mariscos, full of fresh seafood, avocado, and citrus. Like a traditional ceviche, its flavor is cool with plenty of spice and a variety of seafood. A good portion of chips dusted with chipotle salt accompanies the bowl of seafood, and its thickness comes in handy as they are able to stand up to the broth. The seafood is piled so high it nearly spills over the edge of the bowl, and chunks of bay scallop, shrimp, and calamari are distinguishable through the chunks of avocado and tomato. Just one bite is all I need to taste just how tender and fresh everything is—not fishy or chewy, but gives a slightly charred flavor. The most important detail, however, that allows the dish to work is the presence of freshly squeezed blood orange juice that tames the slightly sour lime flavor with a sweet burst of citrus for a wonderful balance. Along with the chipotle chips, the combination of sweet and savory flavors is delightful rather than overwhelming.
As we polish off the chips and finish digging for seafood with our spoons, two street tacos arrive along with stone dishes filled with baby pinto beans and Spanish rice. The first is a Beer Battered Fish taco, featuring a crispy, not greasy, flaky cod with a very mild pico de gallo and chipotle cream that somehow creates lightness that is uncommon with fried food. The presence of shredded red cabbage constructs an image that is visually appealing. Along with the starchy corn tortilla, the taco reminds me of a Mexican version of fish and chips. The second taco contains moist, grilled shrimp with a hint of lime. Covered with a complement of mild peppers and onion as well as a sprinkle of shredded lettuce, the spice rub on the shrimp causes my tongue to tingle slightly without burning, which is lovely for someone like me who doesn’t always do well with hot spices. The side of rice is very fluffy, not too salty, and has a hint of tomato flavor. The beans are soft but have a little bite and a slight smoky flavor. One of the perks is the taco’s size, making them not too filling and allowing patrons to try several different varieties rather than just one.
Next is the Chile Relleno, a large green pepper covered in a tomato jalapeno sauce and a drizzle of crema, topped with cherry tomato slices. Alongside the pepper are a scoop of the Spanish rice and a small dish of beans. The pepper itself is lightly charred and has a lovely crispy shell, balancing the softness and smoothness of the filling. The most surprising element of the dish is the filling itself; it is Agaves’ take on the traditional recipe, which consists of a mixture of crab, shrimp, and scallops along with a little cheese. It has a great creaminess offset by the mild spice of the green pepper and the big kick from the jalapeno sauce. The chile itself doesn’t last very long, and the remaining sauce, which is spicy, mixes very well with the side of rice.
Thankfully, the portions are all on the reasonable side, because James and Miguel each bring us a dessert to round off the meal. The first dessert is Churros con Cajeta, a large white bowl of ice cream that has visible flecks of cinnamon and brown sugar, with four pieces of churro creating a frame around it. Immediately I grab one of the churros, which is still warm. It is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and not too sugary, pairing well with the sweet ice cream. The ice cream is very airy, with a consistency like a semi-frozen whipped cream, and almost mimics the churro’s flavor with its cinnamon notes and caramel aftertaste. Next, we have what looks like a simple scoop of ice cream. When James sees we are about to dig in, he comes over to watch. At first it seems odd because upon first glance, it appears to just be a scoop of chocolate ice cream with a dulce de leche on top. But after the first bite we are well aware why he stayed; he wanted to see our reaction to the surprise kick of heat in the almost savory dessert. The flavor is much like a spicy hot chocolate, and the texture is slightly icy and not quite as creamy as the first. After the initial shock of delight, the ice cream is slightly addictive for its unique taste.
As we finish our meal off and the table is cleared, James comes over once more to check and make sure everything was satisfying to our standards, and it was most certainly. He thanks us and invites us to return soon before wishing us a wonderful evening. Miguel walks us to the door and again bids us a good night with a smile. Despite the many dishes we devoured over the course of the meal, my companion and I both leave feeling satisfied, not stuffed, with plans to visit again in the near future.
Insider Tip: Sports fans can spend their Sundays here enjoying all day happy hour, or come during the late afternoon to enjoy the same treatment for weekday games at the bar while cheering on their team on the big plasma screen televisions.
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I took my girlfriend for her birthday to this Agaves. It was a great experience. The food was delicious, the service was outstanding, the environment was livid but relaxing.