Friday, October 12, 2007

Tequila Sunrise

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2007 at 11:41 AM

My suggestion: Check out Agave Tequila Lounge, the new tequilerria that had its soft opening last night at 12th and Demonbreun, before its madhouse grand opening next week. That'll give the bartenders a chance to learn your name without your having to shout it through a bullhorn.

That'll also give you a chance to sample some extremely tasty "light Mexican" bar food, heavy on salsas, slivered brisket and tortadas, all distinguished (like the super-smooth margaritas) by fresh ingredients. The caliente queso dip, for example, didn't have that melted-plastic nacho-cheese flavor: it was dense with soft, spicy chunks of chorizo and somehow didn't develop that crusty film most queso dips get (perhaps because this one didn't get a chance to stick around). Subjects for future study: tableside-prepared guacamole, a "Black Bean Jack" dip.

Of the tostadas, the best I tried were the California (with ancho grilled chicken, jack cheese, onion and green chile) and the Tex-Mex (with smoked brisket, jack and cheddar, jalapeno rings and tequila BBQ sauce), both a refreshing mix of hot and cool that went well with margaritas. I didn't get to sample many more of the "tapas"—mostly because the guy next to me was smart enough to move his plate of brisket sliders. These were roughly Krystal-sized rolls toothpicked with brisket strips, yellow tomato, red onion and chipotle mayo, accompanied by prickly-pear French fries that I initially thought were tempura-battered green beans.

But the smoked BBQ chicken quesadilla was crisp and hearty, and I'll return to try the Corona-battered steak fingers and jalapeno potato fritters. The dishes are not cheap—salsas and tapas start at $8, and the 10-inch tostadas are $10—but they're filling without leaving you uncomfortably stuffed.

Agave boasts more than 100 tequilas, ranging from a $5 30/30 to a $50 Don Julio Real. I had the $10 Cadillac margarita, and while the effort required to fetch the Herradura Silver tequila off a high shelf was impressive—the bartender has to literally climb to ascend the wall-high pyramid of liquors—I was more impressed by the bite of honest-to-God fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Co-owner Scott Sherrill and contractor Bronson Lankford were among those in last night's small but fervent crowd. They had the right idea—get there early. The bar that opens onto a sunset-flooded patio gives off a vibe somewhere between an upscale Texas cantina and Florida at spring break; that should make the place party central once word gets out—especially given its chain-link location between the Demonbreun dining belt and Radius10. (Interesting news also about the restaurant that's planning to join them across the street next year.)

Mr. Pink predicts: this place is going to get lots of people laid.

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