Agave Uptown 2135 Franklin St./21st St., Uptown, (510) 288-3668. L M-F, D daily.
The brightest spot on this dreary block, this cheery Mexican restaurant features a contemporary interior with big widows letting in plenty of light. Diners have a choice of many seating areas, including an outside patio. The Oaxacan-oriented menu requires some time to digest because it is not business as usual. We started with a chunky guacamole served with thin chips--an “endless” basket of chips and salsa is also available--and cocktails.
The beverage menu includes both shaken and stirred mezcal cocktails (my partner ordered a gorgeous and tasty Agave signature sour) and a long list of mezcal shots. Our waitress assisted me in selecting an El Vago Elote mezcal for a tasty margarita. Plenty of Tequilas, beers, some wines, and an agua frescas of the day and whole coconut drink are also available.
I zeroed in on the enmoladas, which are basically a simple enchilada filled with tasty braised chicken and topped with the delicious housemade Mole Negro De Oaxaca--a secret version that uses 20 imported Oaxacan ingredients, including Chilhuacle negro chiles (jars of the vegan and gluten-free sauce are available to take home). My partner chose the chile relleno--a stuffed poblano pepper also topped with the mole and some avocado slices. Additional tempting entrée choices include Oaxacan cheese empanadas with mushrooms (or chorizo), a selection of salads, and several soups. As would be expected, tacos are a good choice, but note that the tortillas here are small, so you might want to order extra, depending on your appetite. In the future, I would like to try the salmon tacos with mango and avocado, and the prawns with peppers and red onions. Most items are served with rice and mushed black beans. Many items can be made vegetarian.
Be careful of the thin whole green chile used as a garnish. I bit into mine--I love chilis--and started hiccupping uncontrollably, to the point that I felt panic. I do know what you’re supposed to do in this case is ingest lime juice, which helps, but I had none handy so I rode it out. I was quite surprised because this is the first time in many years that I have had this reaction. Take this as a warning and a helpful hint on how to handle this adverse reaction to a chili pepper should it happen to you--anywhere!
Dessert brings on ice creams--Tequila (ole), pistachio, and butterscotchy lucuma--as well as a cinnamony rice pudding and a cup of Oaxacan hot chocolate with a churro.
Since this restaurant is located just two blocks from a station, BART is a viable alternative mode of transportation.
|exterior of Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
|bar at Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
|interior at Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
|cocktails at Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
|guacamole at Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
|enmoladas at Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
|desserts at Agave Uptown in Oakland, California|
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images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers