Go with tacos

Tres Agaves Roseville

1182 Roseville Pkwy.
Roseville, CA 95678

(916) 782-4455

Tres Agaves, in the upscale Fountains shopping center neighboring Roseville’s Galleria, has so many varieties of tequila, its tequila lounge was cited favorably in Playboy. A broad selection of one leads to a broad selection of one of the other topics the magazine celebrates, presumably.

It should be no shock then that Tres Agaves is named after three classes of tequila: blanco, reposado and añejo. Nor should it be surprising Tres Agaves’ focal point is its wall of tequilas, of which various flights are offered at prices beginning at $16 and heading up to $55 for three 1-ounce shots.

As a connoisseur of tequila mainly as an agent of oblivion, judgment is reserved as to the relative merits of Tres Agaves’ substantial stock. And judgment is reserved as to Tres Agaves’ dinner menu, since all visits were lunches. There are a number of repeated items, however.

Given this lack of tequila erudition, the yeomanlike house margarita, at $7, and the Pancho Villa, at $9, are refreshing and feature a generous pour. Indeed, Cristina, the friendly and focused waitress, advises against one of the more expensive margaritas, such as the $20 La Familia featuring Reserva de la Familia Muy Añejo, as a waste of fine tequila.

Like the tilt-up complex of shops—Dave and Buster’s, Soma Intimates and Bellybou to name a few—Tres Agaves calls home, something feels a little faux about the eatery. The one thing that isn’t is its commitment to the dishes and distilled spirits of the Mexican state of Jalisco. It’s all Jalisco, all the time. But the sturdy, blockish, dark wood tables and chairs, the wrought-iron light fixtures and the inclusion of lunch menu items like “Mexican Hamburger” and “Pulled Pork Sandwich”—even though it turns out to be a variant on torta ahogada—ring a little false.

When in doubt, go with tacos. They are the genuine article. There are six varieties, including birria, carne asada, fish and carnitas, but the only allowed combination is between chicken and pork al pastor. The spit-grilled chicken and pork that comprise the tacos, reminiscent of Greek and Middle Eastern street vendors, is easily visible in the open-front kitchen.

The $7.95 taco plate—$5 more at dinner—is artfully arranged. The three tacos occupy the southern hemisphere, a cup of frijoles wedged into a corner of the northeast, a mound of fried rice flecked with corn kernels slops over from the northwest. At the center is a generous—and colorful—collection of escabeche that includes a large half-length of jalapeño, enough onion slices to spread among the tacos, a few carrot circles and a muy grande garlic clove. The pork tacos are tanged by a creative but far too benign salsa of avocado and pineapple. Large swathes of the pickled jalapeño solve the issue.

As for the torta ahogada—“drowned sandwich”—it’s bricklike in shape, has two bread slices thicker than the strata of shredded pork between them and has a bit of a bite, although more adobo and chipotle would be welcome, as would a few wedges of avocado for cooling contrast. The sweet sting of the chipotle mayo accompanying the seasoned fries is addicting, however.

The red chipotle brought with the crisp tortilla chips doesn’t flame as hard as desired, and so the question is asked: Anything en la cocina to melt diamonds? Not today, Cristina says. However, on a subsequent visit, Ashley proffers a creamy but incendio habanero salsa of which, like Brylcream, a little dab will do. The heat is unremitting and intense. The afterburn almost as excruciatingly long as the Bush administration.

The central appeal of Tres Agaves is location. It’s a swell place to unwind after or bulk up for a bout of shopping. What could be more perfect? It’s located in a shopping center. The Jalisco and tequila niche offer a certain uniqueness, and both Ashley and Cristina are friendly, accomplished hosts. All in all, enjoyable but pricey.