Checking out Los Agaves in Santa Barbara
For almost 30 years almost every trip north on Highway 101 has been punctuated by a stop for lunch at Santa Barbara's sainted La Super Rica tortilleria. My love for the place is deep and abiding. My cars seem to find the way there on their own. So imagine how I felt when I pulled up and found it closed. Closed! La Super Rica was closed! How could they do this to me? Or maybe more to the point, how did I never notice that the family took Wednesdays off? But what was I to do for lunch?
Fortunately, I'd noticed a sweet-looking little place just a block a way (I've been going to Super Rica long enough that I know I need to start scouting for parking places very early). Oh well, any port in a storm, particularly at lunchtime. And Los Agaves did not disappoint. In fact, I'll go further than that. Los Agaves is pretty darned terrific.
It's a pretty little place, lots of tile and art and if you're the kind of person who has always objected to Super Rica's awning and cement pad, this will come as great news. Me? I'm all about the food. The menu is roughly similar to La Super Rica's, but mostly in the way that both are dissimilar to the standard Southern California taco-and-burrito lineup (not that there's anything wrong with that).
The queso fundido was hot and cheesy, with a nicely browned crust underneath and was studded with bits of crisp chorizo and soft roasted peppers. The tortillas were thick and chewy and appeared to be homemade. Since I'd passed Mussel Shoals, I'd been contemplating the loveliness of Super Rica's tacos de rajas -- tacos stuffed with roasted peppers, melted onions and cream. At Los Agaves, my rajas came atop a bed of shredded carnitas.
Not better, not worse, just different. But when you're comparing a place to La Super Rica, that is high praise indeed.
600 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara, (805) 564-2626.
Photo credit: Russ Parsons