I would have been pissed if Agave Lounge hadn’t any mezcal. Too many tequila bars ignore the less refined, purer and more flavorful product of the agave plant, so if a joint called Agave Lounge had given it a pass, I would have gotten my bitch on.
But mezcal is on offer, though in considerable less quantity, compared to the connoisseur's conundrum of tequila crowding the shelves of the Eldorado Hotel's altogether over-made lounge. The mezcal is also exorbitantly priced. But it is there.
Sure, I might moan from time to time about the fact that tequila-makers use only one particular agave from one particular state under very particular climate conditions, whereas mezcals come from more than a dozen varieties of agave that thrive in a variety of circumstances, creating a far more compelling range of terroir, finish, bite, fragrance and all of the other things that make drinking expensive liquids fun—and I might point out that any self-respecting agave-anointed effort ought to, therefore, offer better representation-—but I can't deny that mezcal has representation at the Agave Lounge. And one can't usually buy a Del Maguey Pechuga by the glass, so that's another point in the bar's favor.
But no asset could overcome the insulting sloganeering that accompanied the lounge's launch: "Santa Fe's First True Nightlife Experience." Not only is such marketing braggadocio sophomoric and annoying, but it also represents the kind of flagrant disregard for language usually found in Republican talking points. It's like saying Herman Cain could be the country's first "true" black president.
I suspect the root of the problem grows out of Agave Lounge's hiring a firm specializing in something called "lifestyle" to decorate and market the new lounge. It is an inarguably sleek affair, with racy chairs, self-consciously composed spaces and a real kachina-tastic art sensibility. It's all pretty tasteful, I suppose, with the possible exception of the decision to arrange the lighting so that faces appear somewhat dark around the bar, while waist-level lighting illuminates everyone's crotches.
I can well imagine a branch of nightlife psychology that suggests dimming the cognitive psyche and illuminating lower portions, but it not-too-subtly suggests why you might find yourself in a lounge like Agave and what you ought to be thinking about. In my case, the spotlight effect merely led to a concerted focus on the crumbs in my lap.
Said crumbs came from ginger pork wontons with a sweet chile sauce ($7)—a fairly respectable bar snack—and a pleasantly spicy plate of bacon-wrapped jalapeños, stuffed with three cheeses and coated with prickly pear sauce (also $7). I managed to keep my lap relatively free of an average, but entirely edible, mole poblano torta, made with braised pork and served with sweet potato fries ($11).
Though I suspect the dry-aged ribeye baguette ($14) to be quite good given the Eldorado's love affair with expert dry-aging, the real food bargains come during the prolonged happy hour (4-7 pm Monday-Friday). The Monday-Thursday events feature $1 or $2 tacos and sliders of "kobe" (note the quotes), lobster, tenderloin and crab cakes. Vegetarians may politely go to hell.
As expected and in addition to the many tequila (and few mezcal) options, Agave offers a host of
entertaining—if not exactly inventive—cocktails with which to increase your comfort while presenting a 75-watt crotch.
However, in light of the very friendly, professional and capable staff, I am perhaps being too hard on Agave Lounge. An old friend told me as much.
"Everybody needs somewhere to go where they can feel like they're leaving town," he said. "Even if it's just for a couple of hours."
I guess that's my problem. Santa Fe's "first true nightlife experience" feels a lot like it's happening somewhere else.