Earlier this month my dad celebrated another birthday! Hooray! For his birthday, I took him and my mom out to dinner to a place I was invited to called El Agave Tequileria. El Agave Tequileria is located in Old Town (aka Tourist Land) just on the outer edges.
They have their own parking lot in the back (to the left of this photo) but I ended up parking on the street nearby.
Once you step inside, you see that the whole restaurant is a homage to tequila.
There are tequila bottles EVERYWHERE. In the walls, along the ceiling, in cabinets. Seriously – every inch of this place seems to have a tequila bottle nestled into it.
We sat in the covered patio area where there’s another cabinet of tequila. I almost expected them to build a tabletop to house more tequila bottles. Hah!
They had all sorts of tequilas. I like the one in the middle here which looks like some kind of 18th century decanter. Their website states that the restaurant has over 2000 different brands of tequila to choose from. I don’t doubt it!
I wanted to take my dad here because not only was it his birthday, but he’s also a big tequila fan. This is the first one he got which he wasn’t too fond of – he thought it was too sour and they didn’t use lime. For his subsequent margaritas, he asked them to use lime juice instead and he liked it much better after that. He didn’t ask for a special brand of tequila or anything though I’m sure you could get fancy and ask for something specific. I’m sure they have just about everything here (or at least it seems like they do).
[chips with dips]
Fresh chips came out soon after with three different dipping sauces for us to choose from. The one on the far left tasted like a normal kind of hot sauce/salsa. The green was some kind of tomatillo based sauce that I didn’t care for (I’m not a fan of tomatillo) but the middle sauce was the best of the three. It was warm and tasted like a very smooth bean dip.
[pulpo a las bravas / $19]
We started with the octopus for our first dish. The octopus is marinated in garlic, paprika and herbs then grilled and served with an avocado/potato puree. The octopus was incredibly tender and that char on the edges gave it a nice depth of flavor. I was surprised at how tender it was – not chewy or tough at all. Very good.
[sopecitos surtidos / $14]
I ordered us a little sope sampler as well. They make their own sope shells. All three come with black beans and salsa verde. The one of the far left is shredded chicken. The middle sope had a shrimp in a very flavorful chipotle sauce and the one on the right had homemade chorizo. The shrimp sope was my favorite of the three for the delicious sauce and the tender shrimp.
[sopa de mariscos / $14]
Dad ordered one of the soups – a seafood soup made with red snapper, shrimp, and squid with a touch of cascabel “chili”. The seafood broth was tasted very light but had a punch of flavor from the chili and spices. The seafood itself seemed a tad overcooked. Dad thought the soup was just “okay”. Not much wow factor in the depth of flavor.
[trilogia de moles / $26]
I ordered this for my mom even though she kind of made a face at me for ordering it as she didn’t think she would like it. Dad and I wanted to try a variety of things and since they had a whole page of moles, we felt we had to try the moles. This is the three mole sampler.
I don’t remember which is which but there is a verde (green) sauce, rojo (red) and Amarillo (uhhh, another red sauce). The moles were served over a stuffed chicken breast with pumpkin seeds (I think the menu is lying here since I see NO SEEDS) plus fried plantains and Agave style rice.
The verde was my favorite of the three sauces – it was a creamier sauce. All three of the moles were very bold in flavor and spice – almost overpowering to me. Moles generally use a crap ton of ingredients just to make them so it’s not surprising how much flavor they pack in there. I can’t say moles are my favorite thing ever and this was the first time I tried a mole so I’m not sure how to compare it to anything else.
[filete chipotle / $35]
I let Dad pick his own meal since it was his birthday (usually I pick all the items) and he went for the “Filete Chiptole”. It was a grilled filet mignon on a tortilla covered with melted “Manchego” cheese and chipotle sauce. The cheese was nice and bubbly and from the top it almost looks like a massive open faced quesadilla. I didn’t care for the chiptole sauce and the steak was just okay in my opinion. The thing I liked best was the little potato cake on Dad’s plate. It was like a crispy hash brown cupcake!
[pierna de cerdo en pistache / $29]
I apparently got a different menu than my parents and noticed something called Pierna de Cerdo en Pitache. The menu said it was “grilled medallions of baked pork leg, rubbed with ancho chilli, finished with a consistent sauce made with pistachios, sesame seeds, garlic and other spices. Served with Agave rice and vegetables.” Our waiter told us this actually wasn’t on the menu any longer but said I could get it anyway. Of course I’d pick the thing not available anymore.
Mostly I ordered this for the pistachio sauce so I was totally expecting a green sauce to come out. I wondered what the heck it was that sat before me but decided to just dig on it. The pork was very tender and flaked off very easily. No knife necessary to cut through this! But… as with the mole… I found the sauce to be too overpowering for me. I couldn’t really distinguish the pistachios in the sauce and there was so much going on with the spices that it was hard to pick out any one flavor.
I will say that I loved the rice though. It had potatoes in it! I never thought to put starchy potatoes in my starchy rice before!
[tres leches cake]
There was no official dessert menu, our waiter simply told us the dessert choices and we picked two. One was the Tres Leches cake. It was very light in flavor and almost kind of spongy. Not really my favorite dessert, it was just okay.
We also decided to try the flan. The flan here was very gritty, almost like the sugar was not properly cooked down. It was incredibly sweet. I preferred the lighter tres leches cake of the two desserts.
All in all it was an interesting meal. Perhaps moles and bold sauces are not my forte but I am always (well, 95% of the time) willing to try new things.
Note that the menu listed on their website does not reflect the current menu nor the current prices. Think of it more as an overview of their current offerings.
I can’t say that I’d want to visit again. There were a few good things here on the appetizer menu – maybe that’s the thing to stick with when visiting El Agave unless you’re really into moles and sauces.
El Agave Tequileria
2304 San Diego Ave.
Old Town, CA 92110
Open Daily: 11AM-10PM
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at El Agave Tequileria and our food was complimentary (the margaritas were not). All opinions stated here are completely my own.