Agave & Rye review: Cleveland eatery impresses by going big with tacos, decor (2024)

May 28—Nothing about Agave & Rye is bashful.

With a prime spot in Cleveland's Warehouse District, the location of the chain started in 2018 in Covington, Kentucky, by Yavonne and Wade Sarber boasts big and bold tacos and bright and brash decor — right down to the thematically humorous "Pink Panther" posters that sit above the urinals in the men's room.

("Nobody's perfect," says one, quoting 1964's live-action film "Nobody's Perfect" but featuring the cartoon version of Inspector Clouseau looking downward through a magnifying glass. Ouch.)

A "tequila and bourbon hall" promising "epic tacos," the company opened its Northeast Ohio restaurant just shy of a year ago in the former Bar Louie spot.

I met my friend Dave for dinner on a Saturday evening before I moved on to a concert at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Reservations aren't accepted, but getting a table was no problem, perhaps the off-and-on downpours taking place around Cleveland on this July day led many folks to stay in for the night.

Their loss.

We enjoyed a really fun meal, which, for me, started with a New Fashioned ($14), Agave & Rye's take on an old fashioned, with house bourbon, agave syrup, toasted almond bitters and Luxardo cherries. It was fine — a little sweet for my liking — and I would come to regret not ordering one of the many flavors of the OG Margarita ($14, regular; $27, "Epic Size"; $45, pitcher), which can be served on the rocks or frozen in several flavors.

As for that "tequila and bourbon hall" bit, the joint does have an extensive lineup for tequilas and whiskeys — most of them bourbons — if you want to try this or that.

Knowing neither Dave nor I had been to Agave & Rye before, our friendly server tried to be very helpful, offering recommendations — both popular items and personal faves — both in terms of co*cktails.

The latter included one of the two appetizers on which we landed, the Mac N Cheese Beignets ($11), made with sweet and spicy bacon and habanero maple syrup. Thanks largely to that dipping sauce — of which there was more than enough for the dip-iest of diners and which was heavier on the maple flavor than the spicy pepper — she described the unusual mashup of the noodle staple and New Orleans treat as almost a desert. Glad we got it before the meal, as I probably wouldn't have had room later for this amazing invention, the four fried balls containing a taste explosion even without being dunked in the tasty sauce.

I also had to try the Shrimp Rangoon Bites ($8), which were fun — very reminiscent of the appetizer found at many Asian restaurants — but they weren't in the same league.

You could have a blast with a group while sticking to the Agave & Rye apps, which also include Sweet Corn Fritters ($7.25), Birria Irish Nachos ($13.95), Carne Asada Egg Roll ($6.95 each) and a dish built around (gulp) spicy Cheetos and guac ($11.5).

OK. Enough screwing around. Taco time.

Here's what you need to know about the "Epic" tacos at Agave & Rye: They're pricier than those at many similar places; they're also larger.

You're normally a three-taco person, order two. You're a two-er, think hard about only one — especially if you're dabbling in munchies first.

Dave and I each went with two of the double-shelled tacos (a crunch corn shell sits inside a soft flour shell) from the list of more than 10 choices, and we passed on (OK, forgot about) adding a "Love Cushion" ($2) — a layer of pinto beans, queso or guacamole between the shells.

Him: The Filthy Fajita ($9.95), with carne asada steak, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, red peppers, Mexican rice, chipotle crema, queso and cilantro and cilantro; and The Alderman ($8.95), with that same carne asada steak, street corn salad, cotija cheese and a spicy chile de arbol salsa.

Me: The Jedi ($8.95), with sweet chili crispy chicken, baby corn, water chestnuts, cilantro, green onion, carrots, red bell peppers, lo mein noodles and spicy crispy carrots; and The Happy Pappy ($8.95), with carnitas, Mexican rice, sweet-and-spicy bacon, aged white cheddar, queso and a guac Love Cushion (comes standard).

Dave's standout was The Alderman — another recommendation of our server, making her a strong two-for-two on the night — while I focused on The Jedi, essentially an Asian dish in a taco. Not the best taco I've ever had, but I've also never had one remotely like it. While far from ordinary, The Happy Pappy almost seemed so in comparison.

Somewhere along the way of our delightfully leisurely dinner, I wandered back to the list of libations and landed on the Bee Sting ($15), a rocks co*cktail that brings together house silver tequila, whiskey, lime juice, sugar water, Angostura bitters, ginger beer and a buzz button. Asked by our server if I knew what a buzz button was, I admitted I did not and was informed about the perennial from the daisy family found in warm places and used for medicinal purposes. The zesty drink was delicious, and I enjoyed picking out and tasting bits of said button, which I found to have a mild Novocaine-like effect. Fascinating.

Around the same time, Dave finally was talked into a drink, the server leading him to a frozen blackberry margarita. A taste of it led me to my aforementioned regret.

I have no regrets about choosing Agave & Rye for that meal and am already thinking about a pop-in when I'm back downtown for a margarita and The Bomb ($12.95), a, well, epic-sounding taco I somehow missed packed with steak, bourbon-poached shrimp, mac 'n' cheese and more.

Sounds like a meal in itself — and not at all a bashful one — but maybe one that would leave enough room for one of three desserts listed on the menu under "Yum" — probably the Funnel Cake Fries ($7.50), which comes with a chocolate dipping sauce.

Yum, indeed.

Reviews are based on one anonymous visit to a restaurant.

Agave & Rye

1352 W. Sixth St. #152

Cleveland

216-868-2899

AgaveandRye.com

Location: Southwest corner of West Sixth Street and West Saint Clair Avenue.

Type of restaurant: Bar and grille

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Liquor and wine: Full bar, emphasis on tequila and bourbon

Cuisine: Tacos, grilled street tacos, appetizers

Vegetarian: Options include The Green Goddess taco, certain appetizers and chips and dips.

Special diets: Items marked as gluten-free or vegan.

Outdoor dining: Some tables out front.

Kid-friendliness: More of an adult place.

Reservations: No.

Prices: Moderate to high, with appetizers about $7 to $15 and individual specialty tacos about $7 to $13.

Value: Good.

Ratings (of five):

Food: 4.

Atmosphere: 4.

Service: 4.

Agave & Rye review: Cleveland eatery impresses by going big with tacos, decor (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lidia Grady

Last Updated:

Views: 6152

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lidia Grady

Birthday: 1992-01-22

Address: Suite 493 356 Dale Fall, New Wanda, RI 52485

Phone: +29914464387516

Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.