Inside, the restaurant is covered with original art, murals and graffiti, including giant bees and black and white stripes.
The atmosphere sets the scene for a menu of “Epic Tacos” that range from vegetarian to kangaroo, imported from Australia.
“It’s as popular in Australia as cows are here,” said Yavonne Sarber, co-owner and designer of the restaurant, which is the second, after one in Covington that opened February 2018. A third will be coming soon to north of Cincinnati in Liberty Heights, she said.
She said they were drawn to the Lexington market by the proximity to Covington, the diversity in the city, and the friendliness of the people. “We think we can make a difference in the food scene,” she said. “And we think we can make a difference in employees’ lives and in the community.”
Agave & Rye’s Epic Tacos are made from scratch, but available in 10 minutes, Sarber said. So shoppers and those on lunch breaks won’t have to wait around, unless it’s for a seat.
“This is fine dining taken down to a really approachable level. In a taco,” Sarber said. “It’s a great vessel for pretty much anything.”
There are plenty of traditional Mexican dishes, including queso, salsa and guacamole, but there are also lots of unexpected items as well.
The biggest seller, she said, is the Swipe Right, which is honey lime grilled chicken, sweet & spicy bacon, aged white cheddar, salsa and sour cream.
It’s a nice way to straddle the line between wild (the Crown Jewel features butter-poached lobster) and conventional (the Plain Jane with ground beef and shredded lettuce), Sarber said. There are plenty of unconventional taco options, including shrimp and grits and duck confit.
“I’d say my personal favorite is the Rooster,” she said. It has crispy chicken, mac n cheese, Nashville hot sauce and sweet pickles in a taco.
The restaurant also has a full bar with about 80 bourbons and 80 tequilas, which can go into their “epic margaritas,” made with fresh-squeezed lime juice.
Agave & Rye will be open, beginning Sunday, for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The restaurant stays open until midnight on weeknights, 10 p.m. on Sunday, and 1 a.m. on Saturday. “And we serve tacos until 1 a.m.,” Sarber said.
The goal of the restaurant’s vibe, she said, is to make it seem “like you’re in a special place but you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You can leave here stuffed and drink a cocktail for $20.”