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Agave Mexican Grill

Al Parker - May 3rd, 2007
Down in Mexico the agave is known as the source of Tequila.
Some 2,000 miles north in Traverse City, the Agave Mexican Grill is rapidly building a reputation for outstanding Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices.
In February, husband and wife Javier and Dusty Rodriguez opened their comfortable Garfield Road restaurant, which formerly housed Hockey Heroes, and prior to that, Gordie Howe’s Tavern & Eatery.
They weren’t prepared for the public’s first reaction.
“It was so busy after the opening,” said Dusty, smiling as she wiped down tables, freshened table settings and greeted customers. “Frankly, we were overwhelmed during those first few days. Now we’re very prepared.”
The Rodriguezes live in Cadillac where they operate another Mexican eatery, Herraduras. Both have been in the restaurant business for years, with Javier doing everything from serving to cooking to managing.
“Javier and I looked around at several locations before deciding on this one,” explained Dusty, who is joined by several family members among the staff of 15 in operating the restaurant.
The staff is busy now, gearing up for the restaurant’s first Cinco de Mayo celebration. Several specials are planned for the daylong festivities.

Agave’s transformation from a sports-oriented eatery to a stylish and comfortable Mexican restaurant took months, but the effort was worth it.
Colorful murals by Lansing artist Domingo Gamboa now dominate several of the walls where hockey memorabilia once reigned supreme. A creative wall of masks lends an authentic Mexican air to the quiet dining area farthest from the front door. Colorful Mexican beer posters catch the eye of diners. Booths and tables, which provide seating for 180, are comfortable and welcoming. Upbeat Mexican music adds to the relaxing atmosphere.
“We’ve even had a live mariachi band,” said Dusty. “We plan on having them play a few times each year.”
The eatery’s extensive menu complements the comfortable ambience. Of course, all of the Mexican standards are available – burritos, chalupas, enchiladas, quesadillas, tamales, tostados and so much more.
But in addition to those Mexican staples, Agave offers several entrée items that are seldom found at other area restaurants, including:
• Pollo San Juan: a tender, grilled chicken breast topped with five large shrimp and served with flavorful rice, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream.
• Burrito de la Playa: crab meat and shrimp grilled with onion, tomatoes and bell peppers, then topped with melted cheese and served with rice, lettuce, guacamole and pico de Gallo.
• Chuletas de puerco: two grilled pork chops marinated with Mexican spices and serve with rice, beans, pico de Gallo and tomatillo sauce.
• Chori pollo: grilled strips of marinated chicken cooked with chorizo (Mexican sausage) and served with rice, beans and tortillas.
“We’re offering real Mexican food,” said Dusty. “Everything is fresh. Nothing we serve comes out of a can. And we want folks to understand that real Mexican food is not always spicy.”
So far, the carnitas and chimichungas have been most popular with diners, according to Dusty.

Beef lovers will be impressed by the menu’s eight different types of steak, including a flavorful chile Colorado, served with zippy red chili sauce and rice and beans. Of course, the classic carne asada is a popular steak item.
The menu also features five types of Mexican salads, including a chicken tossed salad, which is a savory chicken fajita on a bed of fresh tossed salad.
For vegetarians, there are a few items highlighted by a choice of vegetarian fajitas.
Save room for some of Agave’s interesting desserts, including fried ice cream, a banana burrito and the traditional créme caramel flan.
For those who don’t know a chimichunga from a chalupa, there’s a handy glossary that explains some of the dishes.
The restaurant’s bar boasts a wide selection of Mexican beers, including Dos Equis, Tecate, Corona, Pacifico, Carte Blanca, Bohemia, Modelo and Negra Modelo. Tequila drinkers will find some 30 different brands and flavors to choose from. Happy hour specials are from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.
Almost as important as the quality of the food and drink is the quality of the service.
“We stress customer service,” Dusty explained. “We’re very proud of our servers. They are professional. Javier and I pride ourselves on giving our guests outstanding service.”

Agave Mexican Grill, at 851 S. Garfield, is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday. For a reservation or takeout, call (231) 929-4408.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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