El Agave follows the Wichita Mexican restaurant script pretty closely: Walk in, and you’ll find wooden tables with brightly painted carved chairs, giant plates of food drenched in white cheese and businesslike waiters who deliver orders to the table hot and quickly.
The script also requires food that’s just OK in most cases and pretty good in some, depending on whether the diner orders correctly. El Agave stays on script here, too.
First-time restaurant owner Luis Zabrano opened El Agave in October in the building at 3320 N. Rock that most recently housed Top China Buffet and Monterrey Mexican Grill before that.
ON THE MENU: El Agave serves typical Mexican specialties such as tacos, burritos, tostadas, fajitas and tamales from both a dinner menu and a less-expensive lunch menu. Diners also have the option of less common offerings, including a long list of dishes made with seafood. El Agave is named for the plant that makes tequila, so the restaurant also specializes in margaritas served in colorful glasses.
DON’T MISS DISHES: The two dishes we liked at El Agave were filled with the same stuffing: a flavorful and juicy shredded chicken spiked with Mexican seasoning and peppers. It made for a fat but delicious chicken quesadilla ($5.49), which was glued together by the kind of melted white cheese that sticks to the teeth in a good way. That mixture also was a highlight of the enchiladas suizas ($9.49), a dish made up of three good-sized enchiladas that were topped with both a white cheese sauce and a green sauce, plus chopped cilantro.
When we got away from the dishes with the chicken mixture, the results were less delicious. The carnitas ($10.99) were a disappointment, mainly because the chunks of pork were dry and lacked seasoning. When piled into tortillas with the avocado that came on the side, the carnitas required excessive chewing. We also were unimpressed by the tacos carne asada. We ordered a lunch serving for $6.99, and the tacos came wrapped together in one piece of foil. The meat was dry and was stuffed in the tortillas naked. The pico de gallo served on the side was not enough to dress up the tacos. They desperately needed cheese or guacamole or sour cream or lime. Anything would have helped.
We asked our waiter to recommend a dish from the extensive seafood menu, and he suggested the Cancun especial for $9.99, featuring a cheese and shrimp quesadilla and a crab and shrimp enchilada. That magical white melty cheese saved the quesadilla, but the shrimp inside was diced beyond recognition and was rubbery and bland.
AMBIENCE: The dining room has been nicely remodeled and features the aforementioned brightly painted chairs and tables, and booths line the wall. The bar in the middle of the restaurant features a collection of colorful and attractive margaritas glasses hanging from an overhead rack. The outside of the restaurant looks nice, too, with a new Mexican tile roof and several healthy agave plants potted outside.
PRICE RANGE: Lunch specials are $6.25 to $8.49. Entrees average around $10.