By Dr. Ink
At nearly 20 years old, El Agave in Old Town just introduced its first-ever happy hour to the tune of very strong Cadillac margaritas, Mexican beers and a menu that raises the bar on south-of-the-border cuisine.
The restaurant calls itself a “tequila museum” because of its dazzling collection of nearly 2,000 labels displayed throughout the dining room in all sorts of nifty bottles. Happy hour, however, is available only at the intimate five-stool bar near the entrance or on the charming patio overlooking San Diego Avenue.
Located in a small strip plaza above a liquor store, El Agave’s enticing ambiance goes easily undetected by tourists on the hunt for fajitas and cheap tacos, which you won’t find here. Many out of towners don’t wander this far south on the drag anyhow. Yet for locals in the know, the place is a gastronomic gem.
My tagalong, who resides a block away, ordered the Cadillac margarita containing two and a half ounces of Semental blue agave tequila and a full ounce of Grand Marnier. It was an icy, delicious thing capable of rendering you silly if drinking two.
During happy hour it sells for $9, which is about $5 less than regular price.
With a few hours of work still ahead of me that afternoon, I stuck to Pacifico beer priced at $4 a bottle, a buck under normal cost.
More so with beer than margaritas, I can devour a hefty basket of table chips faster than it takes to fry them. These might have been baked, however. They were thick and non-greasy. Better yet, they were served with three salsas: tomatillo, habanero-tomato, and black bean.
The cost for various salads, appetizers, tacos and burritos drop down between $2 and $5 from their normal prices, with the ultimate bargain being the $10 langosta lobster burrito. Our dapper waiter said it’s normally about $15. Stuffed generously with chunks of tender meat, the jalapeno tortilla also folded in pimento, chipotle sauce and a touch of cotija cheese.
My friend ordered two items at $10 each: a trio of nicely spiced carne asada street tacos, and a trio of sopes de pulpo created expressly for the happy hour menu. Their masa bases were rather dense, although the medley of sautéed octopus, guajillo peppers, red onions and edible flowers crowning them presented a terrific example of fine and authentic Mexican cooking that you won’t find down the street from here.
Given the restaurant’s vast inventory of tequila, the liquor appears only in the margaritas during happy hour. But I’m told that might change once the public becomes more aware of the existing bargains, after which we could see flights or sipper shots enter into the equation.