Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Agave & Rye
Published 11:48 am Friday, January 27, 2023
By Eden Slone
There is no better way to start a Bluegrass food tour than to pay homage to a classic Lexington landmark: Fayette Mall. Over the years, while what may occupy its spaces may change, its purpose of shopping, eating, and enjoying has remained the same. One of its most recent food additions is no ordinary food court snack. Instead, it is an unconventional glamorous, and funky Mexican restaurant serving up tacos, tequila, and a larger-than-life mural of Albert Einstein: Agave & Rye.
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With velvet bar stools, dark walls, and low-hanging light fixtures, the decor feels fancier than it is. The dress code is casual, and no reservation is needed. Still, the experience feels more elevated than most other Lexington taco or Mexican restaurants, like Cinco De Mayo, Papi’s or The Local Taco. While it’s obvious their goal is to create a funky and cool atmosphere, it’s approachable too. With popular hits on the radio and movies on the TV screens (when I visited, the original “Top Gun” was playing – excellent choice), there’s something for even the pickiest critic to enjoy.
The menu is divided up into five sections: little munchies (small sides and single servings), big munchies (shareables), chips and dips (self-explanatory), “not a taco” (some notable options being the grilled birria burrito, “Cheetos fire chicken sammy”) and finally, the main event, their “epic tacos.”
I started with a round of chips, salsa and queso. These came out fast, just as you hope they do at any Mexican restaurant. The chips were enormous and sturdy enough to be piled high with chunky salsa and thick queso without a single chip break. There was just the right amount of salt and crunch, with even a hint of sweetness that complemented the other flavors perfectly. The salsa was fresh with onions, tomatoes, and peppers to give it a kick, and the queso’s not-too-thin-not-too-thick consistency is my new favorite in Lexington.
Now for the tacos: with almost 20 signature tacos, it was virtually impossible to decide what to order. I’m a no-frills taco eater and usually go for the basics, but at a place like Agave & Rye, where toppings like mac and cheese, fried pickles and “cowboy candy” (caramelized jalapeno) are the basics, I knew I needed to level up on my ordering. I chose the Plain Jane (to appease the more simplistic side of my taco-loving heart), the Swipe Right, which I chose for the “sweet and spicy bacon,” the Bees Knees with mango habanero and cowboy candy and finally, my lottery pick, the Happy Meal, a spin of the childhood favorite complete with sweet pickles and French fries.
As the tacos were delivered to the table, just like the chips, I was pleasantly surprised with their large quantities. Each taco comes with a hard and soft shell and is piled high with their respective toppings. I could have easily been full with two but was glad I got four for the taste test. No taco disappointed, from the Plain Jane tasting like traditional comfort food to the French fries on the Happy Meal not being soggy. The taco shells were warm, the cheese was used more than generously (as a cheese lover, this pleased me), every pairing combination, despite everything you know about tacos telling you that it won’t work, worked.
The Swipe Right. The sweet and spicy bacon could have genuinely been a meal of its own and tasted like candy. Paired with white cheddar, lettuce, and herb chicken, it was a foolproof taco that I will absolutely be going back for (and asking for extra bacon).
If you like tacos, Agave & Rye must be immediately added and checked off your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed from the atmosphere down to the last bite. While you never know what may be coming in and out of the Fayette Mall, I think it’s safe to say Agave & Rye is here to stay. Maybe next time will be the time to try that Cheetos sammy.
3535 Nicholasville Road inside the Fayette Mall Oo 123 North Broadway in Downtown Lexington.
With a passion for food and the way it brings people together, Eden Slone is an intern reporter who has created the Eating My Way Through the Alphabet series as a way to highlight some of the best food in Nicholasville, Lexington, and beyond with a new restaurant in alphabetical order being shared each week. If you have a favorite restaurant you’d like to have featured, feel free to send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.