Los Agaves Restaurant
600 N. Milpas St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
For years I have been hearing about this Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara. I've heard about the salsa bar, been informed about their killer molcajetes, and of course I've been told about their long lines. That's why when Katie and I were staying in Santa Maria, we strategically left there to make it here when we thought it would be less crowded. Mission accomplished, we arrived here right at 11am on Sunday, found a spot in their very small parking lot, and walked straight up to the register to order. It's awesome when a plan comes together so nicely.
Los Agaves now has three locations. They have two in Santa Barbara, and a new one that opened up just about a month ago in Goleta. Their location on Milpas is pretty nice. Ordering is done at the counter, and then you find a seat in one of their many seating areas. I got the feeling this was once someones home, with all of the connected rooms. The tiled floor and exposed wood beams really gave this restaurant a comfortable feel to it. They also have patio seating here, so you can enjoy the great Santa Barbara weather.
The menu at Los Agaves is pretty large, with many of your Mexican favorites present and accounted for. Most items hover around the $12 mark. Take some time to check out their daily specials, which are written on the blackboard behind the registers. From everything that I have heard about this place, there's some good stuff hiding in those specials. We made our selections, and grabbed a table in one of the more secluded rooms. Let's see if Los Agaves is worthy of all this hype.
No trip to Los Agaves would be complete without a trip to their legendary Salsa Bar, which is located right to the right of where you order. I did not take the time to write down what all six of these were, but they all were pretty stellar. I really liked the hotter ones, but I am usually always partial to spicy salsas.
True to form when we are eating in a Mexican restaurant, Katie always orders Guacamole ($4.25) to start off with. This was a very good version of my favorite fruit. This guacamole was not overly seasoned with garlic salt and citrus. Just topped with some diced red onions, cilantro, and tomatoes, which allowed the natural flavor of the avocado to push through. I really liked the texture of this guacamole as well. The tortilla chips were baked nicely, and not greasy as all. I had a hard time not scarfing this guacamole down before our meals came.
After about five to ten minutes, our food started making its way out to us in stages. First to arrive was my Crispy Shredded Beef Taco ($3.50). This taco was filled with shredded beef, salsa, sour cream, cheese and placed on top of almost a half a head of lettuce. This taco was good, but there needed to be a little more shredded beef in here. The sour cream was plentiful, and of course the salsa was spot on. The crispy taco shell was fried to perfection, without dripping in grease.
I should have tried one of their molcajetes, but this Agaves Burrito ($12.25) got a lot of love on Yelp, and it was definitely worthy of it. Halibut and shrimp fills this burrito, along with roasted red peppers, onions, cheese, lettuce, and guacamole. It's then topped with a chipotle sauce. I really liked this burrito. There was plenty of shrimp, but the halibut kind of took a backseat to the more flavorful shrimp. The chipotle sauce was almost addictive, it was that good. One of the best burritos I have had in awhile. This burrito was supposed to come with beans and rice, but I ended up getting only the rice with a side of their Agaves salad. The Agaves salad was a pleasant surprise. It came with mixed greens, mandarin oranges, mango, avocado, dried cranberries, and a very good mango dressing. I'm not much into salads with fruit in them, but this one was fresh and delicious. Their rice was even good. Nice and light, and sprinkled with cotija cheese. This plate was all it's cracked up to be.
Katie went the breakfast route at Los Agaves, with this Huevos Rancheros. ($7.95). When I asked Katie to describe this dish, she could not contain her excitement about it. She threw around adjectives like; best, delicious, and heavenly. It starts with the tortillas here. The corn tortilla was crisped above the eggs, and kind of gave this a chiaquiles effect. The chipotle sauce had just enough heat to it, but did not overpower the plate. This was served with black beans, rice, and potatoes. A good sized meal for under eight dollars. Katie also wanted me to make sure that I give a shout out to their tortillas here. She said they were some of the best she has had.
I guess you can say that we really liked the food at Los Agaves. Everything we had was fresh, the salsas and sauces were all top notch, and the portion sizes were pretty generous. We stayed full all the way home, and only managed to eat a little bit of dinner on this night. With all the variety on the Los Agaves menu, we look forward to making many more trips back to Santa Barbara in the near future. For all of you from OC, this restaurant reminded me of a much better version of Taco Mesa. Service was pretty good, even though we did not interact too much with anyone here. Los Agaves was well worth the trip off of the freeway, and it was even better that we beat the rush here. The famous Los Agaves lines were out the door when we left here right at lunch time though.
Out of five bicycles, (because the city of Santa Barbara ranks in the top 20 for most commuters that get to work by riding bicycles), five being best to zero being worst, Los Agaves gets 3.5 bicycles.
For more information about Los Agaves, head to their website here: http://www.los-agaves.com/