Agave had been “coming soon” to Boulder for the better part of a year since La Maricopa left the corner at 28th and Valmont. (You know the place. That’s where Gondolier used to be before they moved into where Magic Mushroom Pizza used to be.) Then, about three months ago, I saw Agave posting Now Hiring ads in the paper. And yesterday a friend told me they’d been open for a little while now.
I finally had a chance to try them out today.
The restaurant pings my “fine dining” radar, first with the fancy-schmancy name (“Bistro” tends to mean “add ten bucks”), then with the dimly lit interior, the dark wood veneer tables, and of course the top shelf tequila. (My dining companion and I did not sample the tequila. Next time.) Also, the availability of table-side guacamole reminded me of the high-priced Cantina Laredo Gourmet Mexican Food (“Gourmet” is sort of like “Bistro”) down on the 29th Street Mall. But our bill turned out to fall somewhere between a Cantina Laredo splurge and a Casa Alvarez comfort food dinner: $31 for the two of us, post-tax but pre-tip.
We each had a $10 tamale plate. For me, the omnivore, there were Tamales Rojos y Verdes: one chicken tamale smothered in a delicious green chili, one pork tamale in a slightly bitter (mole, I’m guessing) red enchilada-style sauce. For my vegetarian dining companion, the Tamales Agave, two tamales stuffed with black beans and spinach and covered in green chili. The tamales were presented beautifully, lying atop their corn husks, garnished with cubes of tomatoes and mango.
The dishes came with a common bowl each of beans and rice to share. We had our choice: for beans, refried or black or… I forget what they called it, but it involved chorizo; for rice, Mexican or lime-cilantro. We had Mexican rice and refried beans. The latter came garnished with queso fresco. We ended up needing extra rice (hot tamales!). They didn’t end up charging us extra.
For dessert, we split the fried ice cream ($7). It was just the right size for two people who weren’t sure they had room for dessert. It was everything fried ice cream should be: vanilla bean ice cream served in a tostada shell, covered with the requisite crunchy stuff, topped with whipped cream, garnished with mint and a sliced strawberry, and drizzled with a chocolate sauce so rich it verged on alcoholic.
So the food was awesome. The service was too; we felt more than adequately taken care of and never spent an uncomfortable time waiting for anything. My only complaint, if I had to complain–if you twisted my arm and said, “Complain! Complain, or else!”–was the noise level. We sat in one of the booths near the bar, and I could hear the conversation from the booth behind my friend better than I could hear my friend herself. Our own conversation involved a moderate amount of bending our heads over the table and going “What?” To mitigate this complaint, I should note that there was a party of eight having a grand old time at the big table nearby. And the restaurant was full up, prime dining hour full. So I’m not surprised it was noisy.
Before we left, we made sure to check out the happy hour specials and hours. It’s from 3 to 6 on weekdays, there’s half off of appetizers, and there are beer and margarita specials that I didn’t look too closely at. I mean, after all, we were going to be back soon. We could investigate more closely then, right?