For seasoned restaurateur Al Geldmacher, a good place to eat is easy to find on the East End, but one that’s affordable and serves great drinks—that’s a rarity.
Finding a new niche in the Hamptons restaurant scene and doing his best to service that niche was as easy for Mr. Geldmacher as looking to his college nickname, which just happens to be Agave, he said. So he and his sister, Joanne Healy, opened up Agave’s Blue Cactus in Hampton Bays five years ago with the idea that a Mexican theme, plus affordable prices and drinks made with fresh ingredients would be a hit. They were right.
“This is reasonable food at reasonable prices. We wanted to add another option besides Chinese and pizza,” Mr. Geldmacher said. “Mexican food has a huge, broad base. Everybody has an understanding of Mexican food ... Then I added tequila.”
The menu at Agave’s Blue Cactus is solid, filling the 40-seat restaurant inside during the winter plus another 40 seats outside in warmer weather, Mr. Geldmacher said. But it’s the drinks made with fresh fruit—such as the Blue Cactus Margarita made with fresh blueberries and freshly squeezed limes—that pack the 10-seat bar and have patrons calling out for mas bebidas por favor.
“Once you’ve had a margarita made with fresh lime and fresh muddled fruit, it’s hard to ever drink a margarita that’s been squirted out of a gun,” Mr. Geldmacher said. “It’s a lot of extra work for a bartender to do it the way we do but it’s worth it.”
Last week, Dining Out did a little south-of-the-border visiting to the restaurant in Hampton Bays to find out the most popular dish, the chef’s favorite and signature items.
Agave’s Blue Cactus
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Most Popular: Grilled Chicken Burrito or Grilled Chicken Fajita; entrées; $10.95 each.
Chef’s Favorite: Grilled Sesame Tuna Tacos; entrée; $14.95.
Signature: Baja Shrimp; special entrée; $15.95.
The general public has a good understanding of basic Mexican food, Mr. Geldmacher said when asked why the Grilled Chicken Fajitas and the Grilled Chicken Burrito are the most popular items on the menu. And chicken is generally an accessible protein, no matter what style it’s cooked.
“Everybody knows a burrito and a fajita,” he said.
In addition to chicken, the other fajita choices include grilled sirloin steak, grilled shrimp and grilled pork. All fajitas are served with sautéed onions, peppers, tomatoes and Mexican spices and come with rice, beans and flour tortillas.
For the burritos, which are made with Mexican red rice, pico de gallo and black bean wrapped in a flour tortilla, there are even more choices to make. Additional fillings, besides chicken, include: cheese, grilled pork, grilled sirloin steak, grilled sesame tuna, grilled vegetables, grilled shrimp and blackened swordfish.
Mr. Geldmacher’s favorite dish on the menu is the Grilled Sesame Tuna Taco, which is marinated in a soy-ginger sauce, then encrusted in sesame seeds and pan seared. Each order comes with three tacos and the tuna is served sliced.
“I’m a big friend of the grilled tuna taco,” the owner said. “It’s delicious.”
Even Mr. Geldmacher, who also owns Agave’s in Westhampton Beach, said that he can sometimes get tired of straight-up Mexican food all the time. The signature dish, the Baja Shrimp, is the perfect antidote for those who love to come to Agave’s Blue Cactus but want to branch out into other food cultures a bit. The dish is made with six large sautéed tiger shrimp in a curry, jalapeño coconut sauce and is served with jalapeño mashed potatoes, plantains, salad and mango salsa.
“It’s really a Thai dish but it’s still got that flavor profile of mixing the spice with the sweet,” Mr. Geldmacher explained. “And it’s got mashed potatoes!”
Agave’s Blue Cactus is located on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays and is open for lunch and dinner, from noon to 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and serves dinner from 5 to 9 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays. Outdoor seating is available when the weather is warmer.