When you think of quality dining in Dallas, what area first pops into mind? Downtown? Uptown? All around the town?? Everyone has a different standard, but I bet neither one of my readers think first of Downtown Carrollton when making that assessment. Yet, in this revitilized Mecca, there is a case to be made indeed. Amici Signature draws a steady throng of patrons with its French-inspired Italian fare and BYOB policy. Babe's Chicken Dinner House pulls in fans of true, downhome cookin' with its almost-all-you-can-eat policy (meats excepted). And Cafe on the Square brings in the lunchtime crowds with signature dishes like braised ribs and horseradish mashed potatoes and is a D Magazine Best Neighborhood Restaurant selection. And just on the edge of downtown stands a Mexican outpost of culinary distinction, quietly carving out a niche in the statue of Dallas dining, Agave Azul Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar. Always looking for good south-of-the-border sustenance, my lovely wife the Rock Star and I made the drive into the wilds of greater Downtown Carrollton one recent Saturday eve.
Before we begin the review proper, I must take a moment to remind both my readers that downtown's parking situation can be tricky even in the best of times. Like Dallas and other cities, Carrollton features limited street parking, so please allow for extra time when planning the evening's festivities. There is a large central lot, but during crunch times and special occasions, it may be full. Still, there is usually parking aplenty, but you may have to hunt and walk. Luckily, on this day, we arrived early enough so that there was still plenty of parking near the restaurant's entrance.
Agave Azul stands hard by Interstate 35 in a large building which apparently has or will have lofts above the restaurant. (Despite my best Googling, I was unable to clear up the mystery.) Lots of high ceilings, exposed ductwork, a separate, glassed-in bar, and earth tones. Roomy and quite family friendly as well, as there were lots of large families with children enjoying their dinners when we arrived. We were seated immediately, and Guadalupe took charge of us.
If you like a place that does everything well, particularly the little things, then Agave Azul may be a perfect fit for you. Chips were delivered with two excellent salsas, the red was warmed and steamy and had a great balance of flavor and thickness, while the green was room temperature and tart. Chips were fresh, but a few had that unappetizing fryer-sheen that you see at times, luckily they were still tasty. Faced with a rather intimidating list of more than 150 tequilas (you read that correctly), the Rock Star and I decided to play it safe and ordered the Margarita of the Month. Good choice. Agave Azul has rightly earned praise from such learned sources as Chowhound for its margaritas, and ours were bracing, not too sweet, and served in old-fashioned glasses. Made with Cazadores Silver Tequila and light on Triple Sec, they were the perfect accompaniment to an outstanding repast. My wife and I both ordered fajitas, chicken for her, beef for me. Marinated in tequila-lime-pepper, these may very well be some of the best in Dallas, at least according to my spouse, who has devoured literally thousands of them in an eternal quest for the best. For myself, I would have to agree, especially when paired with the outstanding sides: A smoky, soup-like cup of charro beans, good guacamole, and fresh-made flour and white corn tortillas, not to mention those fabulous salsas and the margarita, all added up to one of the best Mexican repasts I've had all year. Completely stuffed like a Christmas goose, we declined an order of Agave Azul's famed sopapillas (served with agave nectar rather than honey), and in due course, boxed the few remaining leftovers and went off in search of fresh adventures.
SERVICE & WEBSITE
Despite being situated near a large family party, Guadalupe still managed to care for us quite well, deftly fielding requests and questions about margarita preparation. Website is http://www.theagaveazul.com/.
Justly famed for margaritas and sopapillas, Agave Azul Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar may well be one of the most underrated gems of the Dallas collection of south-of-the-border dining jewels. Make the trip to Carrollton's downtown soon, and as always:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!