Agave Taco Bar owner Ivan Alarcon has a beautiful way of sharing his memories of his native Monterrey, Mexico, through food. Start with the section of the menu dubbed "botanas," Alarcon's version of Mexican small plates, each made to order. It includes the alitas asadas ($10), grilled chicken wings the size of your fist smothered in a tangy sauce Alarcon created from scratch at home. Next, try his "favorites," three dishes he's customized to represent the flavors of his culture. The star here is the sopes del jefe ($7.49), two handcrafted corn cake cups cradling salsa-verde-smothered chicharron mixed with a velvety tuft of refried pinto beans, chopped cilantro, sautéed white onion, crema, and melted queso. In Mexico, however, you won't find menudo available all day, every day. It's typically served on Sundays or as a post-New Year's celebration dish, but you can order it anytime you like here. The blood-red broth is based on Alarcon's grandmother's recipe: beef tripe cut into small pieces and cured in lime for 24 hours before it's cooked for several hours in a three-pepper marinade. The best dish, however, is the signature tacos de trompo ($7.99): slabs of pork seasoned with spices and a blend of chilis that stains the meat a bright, near-fluorescent red. The outer layer, crackling and crispy, is shaved from the spit and often served with a handful of finely chopped onion, cilantro, and a slice or two of fresh pineapple.
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