Both: cocktails, wine and beer selection
How many of you can brag deep knowledge of Oaxacan cuisine? Are mezcal, mole and oaxaca cheese familiar to your pallet? If not, you gotta head over to the East Bay and visit Agave Uptown. If you have previously encountered Oaxacan cuisine, or may be even a big fan, you undeniably need to make your way over to Agave Uptown to rediscover great mole and variety of mezcal-based cocktails. Agave Uptown is a rather small and cozy restaurant opened in June ‘16 in Oakland with a big mission to bringing true flavors of ingenious Oaxacan people to the East Bay. The Executive Chef Octavio Diaz does not disappoint hungry diners crowding over his amazing creations.
The space prides itself with floor to ceiling windows, murals of jimadors harvesting agave plants, bright and playful interior, and an open kitchen if you want to spy on chefs preparing your meal. Our waiter quickly delivered an introduction of the restaurant, explaining the focus on Oaxaca dishes and drinks, and asked if we would like to try any of mezcals. What is mezcal? It’s a traditional Oaxacan drink made from hearts of agave plants. Compared to tequila, mezcal can be made out of any agave plant and has a much smokier bitter flavor. While some people drink mezcal straight up, I prefer mine in cocktails, and bartenders at Agave Uptown mix it in the most creative and daring ways. Since mezcal delivers a smoky and unusual flavor, it could be a bit strenuous on a foodienot pallet, but you resort to a great selection of wine and beer.
Once you settle down with your drinks, it’s time to pick Oaxacan dishes that would delight your day. I highly recommend picking a few items to share, but you can always order for yourself. Sharing or not, I have one word for you: “mole”. No, no, no… foodienot, it’s not what you think! No moles were harmed in the process. Pronounced [mAUli], it’s a rich sauce made with chili peppers, achiote, tomatoes, tomatillos, cumin, garlic, clove, and a variety of other ingredients and spices. The average number of ingredients in a traditional Oaxacan mole is twenty, and Chef Octavio brings his directly from Oaxaca to create an absolutely amazing addition to his dishes. It tastes like chocolate and it’s good on anything. I highly recommend enmoladas – mole enchiladas with chicken – a bit challenging dish for foodienots, but totally worth the try. For more traditional and comfy dishes, I would recommend ordering one of the salads, Oaxacan cheese empanada, and a Tlayuda an Oaxacan pizza. Tlayuda is a crispy corn tortilla, topped with black beans, cabbage, avocado, and amazing soft white cheese (queso Oaxaca). We added steak, and didn’t regret it a tiny bit! If even Oaxacan pizza is a stretch with it’s tortilla and cabbage, there is steak ranchero and tacos.
Agave Uptown is a great spot for foodies, tempting them traditional Oaxacan cuisine and mezcals, and also great for foodienots, offering comfort in Oaxacan pizza and a very down-to-Earth steak ranchero and tacos.
Hope you visit Agave Uptown to taste mezcals and discover Oaxacan cuisine.