For eighteen years, Rafael Najera has been clamoring to open a taqueria in Washington Park, and he finally got his wish. On Saturday, Najera, the longtime executive chef of Washington Park Grille and Max Gill and Grill, unveiled Agave Taco Bar in the former space that held the Local, which shuttered in April. Owned by Greg Sauber and Jeff Estey, who also operate Max's and Washington Park Grille, the taqueria, says Najera, is reminiscent of "the kind of food I grew up eating in Mexico -- the kind of food that I've been eating forever and will always eat."
Fourteen tacos, all of which are plopped on housemade tortillas -- squid ink, traditional corn or spinach and poblano pepper -- grace the menu, which also trumpets seven varieties of salsa, along with ceviche, fundido, taquitos, huaraches, carne asada and blackened tilapia, and they're all unleashed in a sun-kissed space bedecked with weathered and reclaimed woods and garage doors that open to a patio flush with flowers.
Twenty different tequilas squat behind the bar, and while the list will grow, there's already an impressive selection of margaritas and cocktails, all of which are concocted with fresh-squeezed juices and fresh herbs. Seven beers, all in cans, a few Spanish, Argentinian and Chilean wines and fresh aguas frescas, which can be combined with mixers, round out the beverage menu.
"I think the neighborhood is going to like what we're doing," says Najera, a sentiment echoed by general manager Lance Knight. "We need a taqueria in Wash Park, and we're serving great food and amazing cocktails, plus we have a super-friendly staff, an awesome patio, and the place is just full of sunshine -- what's not to love?"
Agave is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and when I stopped by yesterday to shoot photos, it was slammed with neighborhood revelers soaking up the rays, feasting on tacos and wrapping up the work day with shots of tequila. Welcome to the 'hood!