By Laura J. Cummings
Let’s be honest. The best Mexican food usually comes from mom-and-pop shops with authentic taste but average (or below) ambience. Not so with Agave! This rare find, finally, offers the fab fiesta you’ve been seeking!
The party starts in the parking lot as colorful lighting beckons guests to enter for fine dining with a hefty side of fun. Find a place at the expansive bar (showcasing nearly 100 tequilas), in a cozy booth by the stage, or in the festive main dining room, where you’ll find granite tabletops, mosaic wall art and chandeliers reminiscent of tumbleweeds hanging from rustic wood panels.
For larger groups, the Tequila Room offers a most unique dining experience, seating up to 12 guests in a private, glass enclosed dining room at the heart of the restaurant. Another private room seating 18 is often booked for business and social gatherings, while the Alamo Room offers a semi-private dining area right near the live entertainment — perfect for bachelorette parties or wedding rehearsal dinners.
Let the fiesta begin with a traditional margarita or a handcrafted cocktail. Beverage Manager Julio Mora Castillo — aka. “Julio down by the tequila bar” — will eagerly offer suggestions for getting the party started right. Try the Prickly Pear margarita with a sweet-and-salty rim, or perhaps the Mezcalita de Piña with Los Nahuales Mezcal liquor and fresh pineapple.
The next must-order item for your fiesta is Agave’s Signature Guacamole, made table-side, to-order, with options for mild, medium or spicy, and tasty mix-ins including roasted garlic, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, Cotija Mexican cheese, and — drumroll, please — bacon!
“It has a cult following” says General Manager Holly Stek. “Once people get it, they crave it.” (We can vouch for that!)
Chef Jim Sleep began directing the kitchen at Agave last year, transferring from Agave’s locally beloved sister restaurant, Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs. Before that, Sleep was executive chef for Team Penske, traveling the nation and preparing meals for some of the best drivers on the auto racing circuit.
He is married to Stek, the personable GM, making a perfect partnership both at Agave and at home in Estero. Chef Sleep and his staff start the day early in the “scratch” kitchen. Produce is primarily sourced from Farmer Mike’s U-Pick in Bonita Springs. For starters, we highly recommend the Agave Tomato Salad, starring locally grown heirloom tomatoes with pickled corn, avocado, red onion, cilantro and lime, topped with queso blanco goat cheese.
“Every tortilla is hand-pressed,” adds Stek of Agave’s commitment to quality and freshness. “Every sauce is made fresh every morning. No bags, cans or anything processed comes through this door; it all comes in as fresh produce.”
Agave’s menu includes traditional Mexican dishes like fajitas, quesadillas and enchiladas — each with their own unique plating and culinary flare — as well as items you might not expect at a Mexican restaurant: fried chicken (Yucatan style), shrimp & grits, wild-caught Mahi and more.
Although you’ll likely be plenty full after dinner, please linger for dessert! You don’t want to pass up the decadent Mexican Chocolate pudding, the luxuriously creamy Flan or the sweet Coconut Tres Leches cake, soaked in coconut cream.
Linger a little longer for an after-dinner drink. The “Julio Moratini” is an original creation of the vivacious bar manager which promises to keep the fiesta fires going — literally. Julio’s dimples will be smiling as he sets aflame a glass of cinnamon-infused silver tequila (along with a trio of other liqueurs), adding sparks with sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg before finishing with freshly brewed espresso.
“We offer a really unique experience,” says Stek. “It makes people feel good to be here.”
Agave Naples Better Mexican
2380 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples
A flavorful ceviche, filled with fresh ingredients, from the sea — wild-caught shrimp — and from the earth: Hatch Valley chiles, cucumber, lime, avocado, red onion and cilantro. This citrusy starter pairs perfectly with a Gold Margarita.
Mexico’s “stuffed pepper” dish isn’t like your grandma’s. This dish, originating in Puebla, features two poblano peppers — with mild-to-moderate heat — one stuffed with tasty Machaca beef and one stuffed with cheese, fried golden and served with salsa roja.
Sizzlin’ Grilled Fajitas
You can’t go wrong with this classic Mexican dish, which comes out sizzling, sending a mouthwatering aroma to all it passes by. Agave offers several protein options, including the standard chicken, steak and shrimp, along with Argentinian Sausage. Make it vegetarian with spicy cauliflower!
Pan Roasted Salmon
Surprisingly one of Agave’s most popular entrees, the Pan Roasted Salmon is sourced from the pristine waters of the Faroe Islands between Iceland and Norway. It’s served with a tasty citrus beurre blanc sauce.
Agave’s Carne Asada is simply succulent. This tender, perfectly rare, grilled sirloin is served with a flavorful chimichurri sauce and a tasty medley of potatoes, bacon, andouille sausage, bell peppers and sautéed onions.
End on a sweet note with these wonderful, fried pastries, dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, served warm with house-made chocolate and berry sauces. Cap the night with a Mexican Carajillo — freshly brewed espresso and aromatic Liquor 43 over ice.