By Raymond Bill

Each year, I cannot help but notice the number of year round residents continues to rise. The Coachella Valley is growing and the season is becoming increasingly harder to define. The line between where the summer ends and the tourist season begins is blurred and some restaurants have found success through typically slow months while others are forced to close their doors for up to 5 months out of the year. So when I visited Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill last week (in the middle of our off-season), I was pleased to see a packed restaurant that was still accommodating reservations and walk-ins at almost 10 o’clock at night! They must be doing something right and I was about to find out.

We arrived promptly for our 8pm reservation and were escorted to what seemed to be the only available table. The foyer was filled with guests whom I could only assume were without reservations and hoping for the opportunity to dine in the desert’s hottest Mexican restaurant! The dining room was filled with the soothing sound of a harpsichord playing traditional Latin favorites. After ordering our cocktails, we placed an order for fresh guacamole to be prepared tableside. The chips were warm and the dip was superb. While preparing our appetizer, we asked our server’s assistant to recommend some items from the dinner menu and when he began to rattle off his favorites, his eyes lit up with genuine delight. Here was a man who was proud to be a part of Fresh Agave!

We immediately followed our guacamole with their Chiles Agave; placed before us were 6 yellow peppers filled with diced shrimp, onions and tomatoes with a chipotle sauce for dipping. The dish was served with soy sauce and seemed comparable to an appetizer I have had in a couple other local restaurants… until I tasted them. Wow! This dish is spicy and full of flavor. What a treat! Those other restaurants pale in comparison.

My entrée selection, a house specialty, included a cup of chicken tortilla soup that was just the right amount and a great addition to the meal. Clearly, everything is homemade. Finally, my date would enjoy a trio of tacos called, “Three Jimadores.” Chicken, steak and carnitas tacos were generously portioned and served with beans and rice. I received the, “Filete Pescado Al Chipotle.” This is a piece of fresh Mexican Bass with savory chunks of shrimp and a drizzle of chipotle sauce, served with rice, vegetables and choice of beans. The fish was incredible and the rice was unlike any I have had in all the other Mexican and Spanish restaurants in which I have dined. Every bite was the best bite of the meal!

With exceptional service and mouthwatering cuisine, this restaurant has soared to the top of my favorite list. We ended our meal with a classic Sopapillas dessert. These doughnut-like pieces of sweet bread were accompanied by a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and sweet honey and cinnamon. This was a meal that will not soon be forgotten. I have often seen pictures and positive comments regarding this restaurant posted on social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram but now I get to make my own contributions!

Don’t wait for season to see what the buzz is all about; go before the flood gates are opened. I highly recommend reservations by calling 760-836-9028 and visit their website, www.freshagavemexicanbarandgrill.com to view their menus. Fresh Agave will undergo renovations to expand their bar but will remain open from 11am to 9pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am to 10pm Friday and Saturday.

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