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First bite: Blue Agave Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar in Gig Harbor

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on July 6, 2012 at 12:01 am | No Comments »
July 5, 2012 4:49 pm
Tacos come on corn or flour tortillas at Blue Agave Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar in Gig Harbor.

Think of the newly opened Blue Agave Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar at Uptown Gig Harbor as something like Qdoba or Chipotle Grill, only with a more robust menu, an impressive tequila bar and local ownership. It opened June 25.

Blue Agave is an outpost of a twin restaurant in Port Orchard and a sibling to local Puerto Vallarta restaurants. Sergio Andrade and his family have owned South Sound Puerto Vallarta restaurants for two generations. His father opened the first in the early 1980s and several have followed. Andrade now operates six Puerto Vallartas – from Lacey to Port Orchard to Federal Way. Andrade operates Blue Agave with business partner Alex Vidrio.

The food hints at the fresh flavors of a homespun taqueria – something that nods to (or at least strives to be) Tacos Guaymas or Taqueria El Antojo, two of my favorite South Sound taquerias, but the style and execution at Blue Agave is much more related to the Americanized concept of fast-style Mexican restaurants like Qdoba or Chipotle where diners counter order and direct a cook, choosing from a long list of ingredients for stuffing into tacos and burritos.

Blue Agave is stylish, looking much like the smart, yet approachable for families, interiors of Pizzeria Fondi and Blazing Onion, two nearby Uptown restaurants with a very similar concept where diners order at the counter, take a number, select a seat, followed by table service the rest of the meal.

The idea of hybrid self-serve/table service takes some adjusting. As with my experiences at Blazing Onion and Fondi, I’m not the biggest fan of counter-ordering followed by hunting down a table, then laboriously dealing with a round robin of servers who aren’t necessarily assigned to your table. Some diners love it, some hate it. I’m somewhere in the middle.

A first-bite visit to Blue Agave in the fledgling days found a restaurant finding its way, but service was friendly, the servers young and energetic. Apologies were quick when menu questions went unanswered, and I appreciated an eager server who didn’t know much about tequila, but who quizzed the bartender on our behalf.

White fish ceviche is available in two different sizes at Blue Agave Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar in Gig Harbor.

The menu at Blue Agave is affordable, similarly priced to competing taquerias. Full meals fall in the $10 range, topping out at $12-$13. We sampled burritos and tacos with chicken, carne asada and carnitas. The food wasn’t perfect, but my visit was during the first days of operation, so it’s unfair to draw judgments from a single visit.

As with Qdoba, I appreciated Blue Agave’s different styles of beans and rice. Add-in fillings ranged from more Americanized green lettuce and yellow cheese to salsas in different styles and heat levels – verde, roja and habanero – as well as pico de gallo.

A salsa bar comes with a wide range of condiments to tweak your tacos and burritos.

Tacos are priced $2.49, burritos at $8.99-$9.99. Platters come with enchiladas ($9.99), sopes ($12.99) and fajitas ($13.99-$15.99). Tortas, tostadas, tamales, quesadillas, chile rellenos and taquitos, pescado dorado and white fish ceviche round out the menu.

At the rear of the restaurant – where diners will find forks and napkins – a salsa bar delivers a taqueria experience. Serve yourself from a selection of sliced radishes, pickled carrots and jalapenos (just like a taco truck), as well as salsas, pico de gallo and lime wedges.

A margarita is made with agave syrup, not sugar.

If the restaurant set out to impress with its three-page tequila menu, they nailed it. Blue Agave’s menu boasts 100 tequilas, as well as mezcals and sotols. Ask before your order – they don’t yet have everything in stock, a bartender warned. The tequila bar rivals (at least on paper) that of Tacoma’s Matador, part of a Tex-Mex regional restaurant chain known for its extensive tequila list. I do wonder if the concept at Blue Agave might appear a bit disjointed. Will diners embrace a fast-food restaurant with $20-$50 tequila shots? I don’t know. It seems there was quite a disparity in shot prices – from $7-$10 and upward, but I don’t think I want to sip a $100 shot of tequila at a restaurant where I have to go get my own silverware.

Here’s something interesting for tequila aficionados: tasting flights in various configurations are priced $20-$115.

Blue Agave Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar
Where: 4729 Point Fosdick Drive N.W., Gig Harbor
Information: 253-857-5001, blueagavemexicangrill.com
Dining style: Order at the counter, take a number and find a seat. The rest of the meal is table service.
Menu: Affordable taqueria-style eats in the $10 range
Tequila bar: Three-page list of expected and rare tequila finds, also mezcals and sotols. Visitors also will find margaritas, mojitos, specialty cocktails, beer and wine.
Children: $4.99 kids menu and children are welcome in the dining room. A small bar is for ages 21 and older.

Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously and the News Tribune pays for all meals.

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