Louisville Courier Journal
Published 4:03 PM EST Jan 13, 2020
A new restaurant heading to Louisville's Highlands neighborhood lists its menu items as "Epic Tacos."
And, well, they're not exactly tacos as you might imagine them.
At Agave & Rye, a taco could be crispy Nashville hot chicken and mac and cheese with sweet pickle relish. Or jalapeno-and-soy-glazed kangaroo with sesame, ginger pan sauce, chow mein and fried egg in a taco. Or a shrimp po'boy complete with Cajun remoulade, tobacco onions and pickle relish all layered in a taco.
"Our Epic Tacos are prepared from scratch, consisting of both fresh produce and protein, resulting in an unforgettable mouthful of sizzling meats and crisp toppings," according to its website description.
The high-end taco concept took off quickly when the restaurant opened its first location in Cincinnati in February 2018. Since then, two more locations have opened in Lexington and Liberty Township, Ohio.
Now, a fourth location is coming to Louisville at the 6,300-square-foot former Ward 426 location at 426 Baxter Ave. The restaurant is projected to open Feb. 9.
Co-owner Yavonne Sarber said she and her husband, Wade, were in Louisville searching for locations and got lucky: It was right when Ward 426 closed. They snatched up the lease as soon as they could, attracted to the parking options, location and large deck, which Sarber said was perfect for "margaritas, bourbon slushies and tacos."
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"My husband and I come from fine dining, and we wanted to take those proper techniques, turn them on their head and put them in a taco," she said. "So we do things like lobster truffle mac and cheese in a taco, kangaroo in a taco, Nashville hot chicken, and a po'boy. We have ridiculously good queso, too. It's an unbelievably delicious menu."
Sarber said Agave & Rye will stand out from other taco restaurants in Louisville because it's not truly Mexican — more "continental cuisine put in a taco." The restaurant makes all its sauces from scratch, smokes and brines its own meat and squeezes limes daily for margaritas.
Dishes range in price from $4.50 honey lime grilled chicken tacos to $11.50 lobster truffle mac and cheese tacos. There's also a "Not A Taco" menu with sesame chicken legs ($11), a "Proper Dinner" braised short ribs meal ($18) and even white chocolate and blueberry bread pudding french toast ($11). Drinks include a jalapeno pineapple margarita, whiskey and cherry Dr. Pepper slushie and a blackberry tequila smash.
The menu is stacked with nearly 90 bourbons and 90 tequilas so there's no shortage of options for someone to try a new dish or cocktail.
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The sprawling Ward 426 space will be transformed: The couple are pouring about $300,000 in cosmetic upgrades to the space, which reportedly underwent extensive kitchen renovations a few years ago.
When Agave & Rye opens, the space will have a 35-foot-long Muhammad Ali mural, a "custom funky art gallery and 48 chandeliers," Sarber said. There will also be 15 vintage arcade consoles by the bar in the back, free to play. The restaurant seats about 120 inside and more on the porch, which Sarber expects will be quite busy come spring. The restaurant is aiming to hire 40 employees.
"We love every location, but this one has some special magic in it," Sarber said. "Louisville seems so passionate about food. I'm surprised at how much energy there is, even without it being Derby time. We think our brand will be well-accepted because it's the unexpected. It's not what you've had before."
Agave & Rye will be open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Hours may be extended in the evening depending on demand.
Dahlia Ghabour: 502-582-4497; [email protected]; Twitter: @dghabour. Support strong journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscriberguide.