I like Agave Azul in Winter Park. And if I sound slightly surprised when I say that, it's only because I never cared very much for the original in Orlando.
Then again it's been over seven years since I visited the Kirkman Road location. And I rather liked its sister restaurant, Saint Anejo Mexican Kitchen + Tequileria when it opened a year and a half ago in Winter Springs.
Like Saint Anejo, the newer Agave leans a tad more to the Mexico side of the border in the Tex or Mex question, though a full section of Fajitas, an American invention, has it straddling the wall.
But everything I tasted was good. Though in the case of the Taco Shooters it was good taste in an odd presentation. But how could I pass up something called Taco Shooters?
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Basically, the two corn tortillas, filled with bits of grilled steak with an ancho chile rub, chopped onions and a sprinkling of queso fresco, were squeezed into glasses that had some avocado salsa on the bottom. Now, a shooter is something that you're meant to slam down in one gulp. I do not recommend that with these tacos. They need to be picked up and eaten by hand like a, well, like a taco. But when I did that they pretty much just fell apart. An A for creative thinking, and an A for taste, but a C-minus for execution.
The entrees that my guest and I selected were more traditionally plated. My friend chose the Chile Rellenos, a large poblano pepper that was stuffed with Oaxaca cheese and battered and deep fried, smothered in a red salsa blended with ground beef, drizzled artistically with sour cream (no grade given here) and accompanied by Mexican rice and refried beans. There was a lot on the plate and most of it was quite good, the beans being an over-pureed exception.
I had the Tamales, which were served open-husked and topped with salsa roja and salsa verde and accompanied by the same rice and beans. The cornmeal of the tamal was pleasantly moist and the chicken was well seasoned.
The chips and salsa that were served upon seating -- another practice that's more Tex than Mex -- were also quite good, the chips crisp and ungreasy and the salsa with a nice smoky note. And by the way, there is a large list of Margaritas but the basic house version is pretty darned good.
Our server was pleasant and helpful.
The restaurant occupies the space that was held briefly by Square One Burgers. It is tastefully appointed -- no sombreros that I could spot -- and features and indoor and outdoor bar and a patio with a lovely view of the US 17-92 traffic (might be quieter than the inside dining area on a busy night).
It seems this small restaurant group gets better with each subsequent opening, although it still needs help with its website. It no longer blares music, but it also isn't very useful. It refers to this restaurant as La Fiesta and "coming soon" (a typo, the manager told me) and the menu pages are blank.
Oh well, we'll take the improvements as they come.
Agave Azul is at 900 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 321-972-3414.