There is a hidden gem of a restaurant in Hughson named Agave Azul Kitchen & Tequila bar that has a very extensive menu created from family recipes, fresh ingredients and innovative twists on traditional items. Three sisters had an idea to open a restaurant in their hometown and eight years ago it finally came to fruition.
Currently, sisters Sandra and Gabriela Lujan are running the restaurant along with head chef Alfredo Arevalo and a staff of about 40 employees including servers, bartenders,and the kitchen crew. Agave Azul has seen success through the years and serving up homemade flour tortillas has kept guests coming back from near and far along with their tasty dishes and great service.
Restaurants and bars have been hit hard through the pandemic with closures and changing regulations on a constant basis. Agave Azul has tried to adjust through all the changes and looks forward to the day that they can reopen their dining room.
“In the beginning when everything closed down it was awful,” said Sandra. “We came in that Monday and I started crying. We did not know the future of our business. We had to lay off most of our employees and that was difficult. It was just me, my sister and Alfredo and then a couple more employees came in when we started doing take out.”
They have managed to stay viable with their takeout orders and outdoor patio, but it was a real struggle. The takeout orders kept them afloat and they were able to bring back more employees and although it was a lot of work and changed their business model a bit, it was worth it.
When they reopened with limited seating, they were able to get creative and extend their outdoor patio into the parking lot with canopies and plants to continue to offer guests an inviting dining experience.
“People were being more supportive than ever,” added Sandra about reopening. “I think we have been busier at times than we were before. It has been a huge blessing. So when things are changing every day we just take it day by day right now. There is nothing else you can do, really. It is really sad to see other businesses close because I know how much hard work it takes.”
Originally the sisters worked the family business taking fruit and vegetables from their farm to farmer’s markets in the Bay Area, Lodi and Tracy. This is where the customer service skills were honed. The family farm grows peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, oranges, apricots, kiwis, apples and grapes. They wanted something of their own and were originally going to open a taqueria but then decided to open a restaurant. They bring the same farm fresh produce right to their Agave Azul restaurant along with goods from other local farmers.
“We never realized how much we were going to grow,” expressed Sandra. “We have people that come here from Turlock, Modesto, Lodi, Manteca and even the Bay Area like Livermore. So it hasn’t been all locals but Hughson has been very supportive. It is still Mexican food but it is not always traditional Mexican.”
The big menu is filled with family recipes from their grandma and mother with some creations from the sisters. They like to travel and get ideas from other areas but also put their own signature on the dishes served. Although they are a Mexican restaurant, Sandra said that what they bring is something a little different. Some guest favorites are the chorizo, Agave Enchiladas, Tacos Caseros, Pollo Con Crema y Rajas, or the very popular Molcajete. Grandma’s chorizo has been a hit at the restaurant and they do not plan to change it in any way. The Agave Enchiladas are made just the way their mom makes it with shredded chicken, cheese; pan fried, dipped in red sauce and topped with cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream and cotija cheese. The Tacos Caseros are made with a handmade corn tortilla that is crispy with potatoes and cheese. Pollo Con Crema y Rajas is a creamy dish with grilled chicken, poblano chiles, onions, and rich cream. Their version of the molcajete is filled with cheese, homemade tomatillo sauce and your choice of meat.
“For the past two years we have been doing brunch and it has been going really well,” Sandra said. “Our weekends are really busy and Sundays are a mad house. Everything that we cook is fresh; we don’t buy anything premade. We make our own salsas and if we are out of something we are out. We make sure our quality is great and we do not want anything to come out sloppy.”
They are open from Tuesday through Sunday and although the future is unknown, they plan to continue to serve delicious food to their customers. Catering is available as well. The handmade fresh tortillas will continue to roll out at Agave.
“I love what I do,” Sandra stated. “I love coming to work every day. I love our employees. The people that work here are passionate about what they do. I love our customers. We have met so many people that have become friends. We have been very blessed.”
For the full menu visit agave-azul.com or for more information call 209-883-0800 or visit Instagram or Facebook.