By Linda Bausch
The visual impact of the wall-sized mural overlooking Los Agaves Napa’s dining room and bar on Main Street, foretells a colorful, and richly cultivated cultural expression of the experience ahead. This restaurant has a festive vibe and the food and beverage menus reveal a classic Mexican menu with a spicy flare. Bright music heard throughout the venue added to the up tempo atmosphere nurtured by Owner, Ricky Gonzalez, and his staff.
The restaurant is opened for lunch and dinner guests each day. We had reservations for a Wednesday evening at six o’clock. When we arrived, the host promptly showed us to a table on the outside patio, just off the river walk. The staff did a great job keeping up with what seemed like a sudden flow of incoming, hungry guests. Within a very short time every table was filled with patrons. It was unusually warm, as the familiar early-evening breeze and chill we’re accustomed to did not appear this particular evening. It was a lovely night to dine al fresco; we weren’t in a hurry and appreciated that we didn’t feel rushed.
A basket of lightly salted, house-fried chips were brought to the table with a spicy and smoky salsa soon after we were seated. We know guacamole is a must have and we ordered that to enjoy with the chips and salsa while we perused the menus. The generous portion of guacamole was more than enough for two, and it was topped with liberal amounts of tomato, onion, cilantro and a dash of lime.
Looking at the beverage menu it’s fair to say, this is a tequila bar. The libation options are many and wide-ranging in regard to variety and price. We chose a cocktail each from the menu of a dozen drinks featured this evening—all with enticing names and mouth-watering ingredients listed. I selected the Pina Caliente which consists of Tequila, homemade spicy pineapple paste, agave nectar, lime juice and a deliciously dipped rim of Tajin spice. My special guest enjoyed the Papasito made with Rum, Aperol, lime and grapefruit. Both of these beverages were new to us and very refreshing. It was nice to try something we hadn’t had before and we’ll be sure to recommend them to our friends.
The liquor list continues with flights of Tequila, Mezcal and a supreme option of a Clase Azul Tasting in one ounce pours. Domestic and familiar imported beers and wines are included on the list, as well.
A great number of Tequila varieties are on the menu at Los Agaves—dozens barely covers the numbers—there’s actually over one hundred choices of Mezcal, Blanco, Reposado and Anejo. The same as when creating fine wines or other spirits, methods of fermentation, barrel aging, and the flavors and coloring of the barrels used allow for each unique classification to come to life. Ranging in color from clear to a deep golden hue, some are best suited for making mixed drinks and others are best enjoyed by the sip; the details however, I’ll leave that up to the experts behind the bar to guide you.
When Juan, our server, returned for our order, we asked for the Watermelon Salad to share, a smart decision because there was an entrée sized serving set in front of us. The cubed melon was sweet and juicy, the orange slices, jicama, grated carrots and red and green lettuce provided texture and vivid color to the dish which was dressed with the ideal amount of strawberry vinaigrette—just enough to ‘kiss’ the ingredients without drowning the delicate flavors.
There are numerous share plates and appetizers to choose from. As I mentioned, we had the guacamole from the top of the share list, which is followed by Tacos Dorados, chicken taquitos fried and topped with lettuce, sour cream, cheese and salsa. Queso Fundido, a melted cheese dish including wild mushroom and chorizo. Sopes, two mini corn masa tortillas topped with pastor and asada. Quesabirrias rounds out the starters—beef mini quesadilla with a beef dipping sauce on the side. Appetizers begin with a Ceviche Verde Mixto, the Los Agaves Salad with mixed greens, mango, jicama, cranberries and tamarind dressing. Grilled Octopus, Tinga Tostadas, and soup of the day fill out the early offerings.
For our main meal we both chose the Alambre: skirt steak sautéed with bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, bacon and melted cheese, served with homemade tortillas. The seasoning was rich and full-flavored, yet mild enough for nearly everyone’s taste. All-in-all, the dish was filling and satisfying in flavor and presentation.
A few of the other options listed on the menu are Fish of the Day, Chilo Ajo con Pollo, a traditional chicken dish made with chile guajillo and spices from the state of Oaxaca, served with rice. Pork Chop Al Pastor is served with zucchini, grilled corn and pineapple. Wet Burrito with short rib al vino tinto, black beans, rice, onion, cilantro, cheese, cream, topped with half-red and half-green salsa. NY Steak half ($24) or full ($45) served with “frijoles charros” beans with bacon, jalapeño, tomato, cilantro. Enchilada Verdes with chicken, tomatillo sauce, onion, queso fresco and sour cream. Enchiladas de Mole with chicken in their delicious mole, onion, queso fresco and sour cream (contains nuts).
On the side, we ordered the Mexican red rice, the texture was fluffy and the flavor was mild. We didn’t realize we ordered this next item from the kid’s menu (sweetly, Juan did not point out my ‘age’ faux pas), a Bean and Cheese Burrito. The whole-bean, and white cheese burrito wrapped in a soft flour tortilla will be exactly what a mom or dad may need in a flash to satisfy a hungry kiddo.
We are never very good at saving room for dessert. This is our downfall—something I hope we work on because the Mexican Cheesecake was sure to be full of “caramel and vanilla deliciousness”—as quoted from the menu.
Ricky Gonzalez has put his vast experience in the Valley to work at Los Agaves Napa. Many of our locally owned restaurants seem to be making my job easy; the genuine hospitality, fine food with excellent service and consistency is well-practiced and much appreciated.
In case you are looking to cater your next family gathering or business event, ask about the Los Agaves Napa Food Truck. Available for catering only—event food service—tailored to suit your needs.
660 Main Street, Napa | 266-1267 | LosAgavesNapa.com
Open Daily for Lunch & Dinner | Reservation Accepted