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Agave offers gourmet tacos, tamales, ensaladas and more

The Mexican cuisine is "delicioso" and the margaritas are "robusto" at Agave, a restaurant that touts gourmet tacos and tamales in Ashland.

The eatery, now open in its new location at 5 Granite St., is popular with local diners. This was evident last Friday during the city's downtown art walk. By 5:30 p.m., every table was filled. My friend Stacey, a regular at Agave, had the foresight to make a reservation the day before.

I wondered how the restaurant had built such a large clientele doing business at its former, tiny space on North Main Street. I'd always wanted to try the food there but could never get a seat. Its owners made the right choice moving into the room last occupied by Blue: Greek on Granite.

Stacey had reserved a table in the window next to the restaurant's front entrance. The door never stopped swinging during our meal, and she seemed to know or recognize everyone who passed that evening.

More of a hungry diner than a social force, I was happy to sip my margarita and explore the menu. Stacey had ordered guacamole and chips ($5.95). We gobbled them down. Fresh avocado mixed with onion and salsa is mashed to order and served with tortilla chips placed upright to create the look of an agave plant. 

With big eyes, I ordered the chilaquiles. These are tortilla chips covered with red sauce and topped with green onions, avocado, cilantro and cotija. The chips at Agave are unlike any I've ever tried. They're cut into long, narrow strips, and they have a lighter, tastier texture than most, while still excellent for dipping. We enjoyed the chilaquiles, but our eyes were bigger than our appetites and we wanted to move on to the authentic tacos.

We each tried a Pescado Baja, with lightly battered and deep-fried tilapia, and a Pescado Andrejo, with simple and healthful sauteed fresh tilapia. Each cost $3.75. Then we ordered a carne asada taco ($3.50) made with marinated and grilled skirt steak. All were delicious, and the flavor took me back for a second to a palapa in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, where I'd dined on fish tacos more than once.

Agave's tacos are served on white corn tortillas made fresh daily at the restaurant. They're topped with fresh cabbage, pico de gallo and lime. And, no, we couldn't eat just one.

Agave's menu includes vegetarian and vegan options. One I'd like to try is the winter squash and portabella tamale. Diners can create combination plates by adding rice, beans, chips and salsa to any of the selections for an additional $4.50.

We topped our meal off with flan — or Mexican custard. Agave's version is substantial, with a thick, creamy texture. Covered with caramel sauce, it was a real treat.

I can't wait to return to Agave for another go at the menu ... and at one of those margaritas. Made with Sauza tequila, triple sec and lime juice, this spirituous beverage can be ordered in a half size. They're served on the rocks, not blended, with or without salt rimming the glass.

Agave is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. 

— Laurie Heuston

Corn chips in guacamole create an organic form similar to an agave plant at Agave in Ashland.