Eat Here Now: AGAVA
New Kids On The Local Foods Block: AGAVA
by Raquel Dalarossa
Inside Agava, a recently opened Southwest-inspired restaurant in Ithaca, workers wipe down newly-installed counters and shelves with haste. The smell of fresh paint and sawdust lingers, but soon the restaurant will be filled with the enticing aromas of classic Southwestern fare, all incorporating a wide variety of fresh and local ingredients.
The crew’s enthusiasm and dedication is almost palpable as they put the finishing touches on the venue, which features a Southwestern landscape mural, a large outdoor deck and a rustic bar decorated with reclaimed local barn wood.
Among these diligent workers are the restaurant’s owner, Gregar Brous (also owner of Collegetown Bagels), executive chef, Andre Jacquet (who previously worked the kitchen at Ithaca’s BoatYard Grill), front-of-house manager, Asya Ollis, and bar manager, Brian Ash.
“I’m excited to be part of a venture with so much energy behind it and such a dedicated team,” says Ollis.
“We’ve been working this menu for about two years,” says Jacquet, “but individual dishes will rotate around whatever ingredients come through the door. I’m keeping my finger on the pulse of the farmer community, so to speak, to get fresh, quality ingredients, and ingredients that are normally hard to source.”
He’s particularly excited to be working with Ronin Farms, located in Trumansburg, and organic tortilla producers Tortilleria Nixtamal. In addition, he says he’s looking forward to creating menu items for Agava’s wood-fired oven, like roasted local veggies and flatbreads.
Brous is also thrilled to have such a locally-focused menu, which he hopes will impress even the most seasoned food connoisseurs.
“A key market for us is foodies,” he says. “We’re all really into food and want to source as many items as we can from the local community.”
He says he and Jacquet came up with menu concepts together, but he gave the chef a lot of free reign. That freedom helped with the creation of dishes like the Lil’ Shorty, a platter of beer & chile-braised beef short ribs with watercress, radishes, and pickled chiles and The Deluxe, a hefty sandwich of pork carnitas, black bean puree, pickled red onions, slaw, poblanos, and arbol chiles served with a dipping broth.
Bar manager Ash was also given plenty of leeway in concocting the drinks menu, which will feature five signature margaritas, as well as a host of alcohol-free options. “That’s what I’m really excited about,” he says. “We’re going to be able to provide a lot of choices for folks who usually don’t have that many choices.”
Agava opened its doors to the general public earlier this month and, from the looks of it, the restaurant is already a welcome addition to the local foods dining community.
381 Pine Tree Road , Ithaca, 607.319.4366, agavarestaurant.com
Raquel Dalarossa is an intern with Edible Finger Lakes and a junior in the Writing Department at Ithaca College.