2017-06-16 / On The Town

A love affair with food at Tavern 101

Restaurant spotlight Acorn Epicurean
Ela Lindsay

SMOKIN’!—Marco Gonzalez, Tavern 101 owner, removes a sizzling piece of meat from the on-site smoker. 
ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers SMOKIN’!—Marco Gonzalez, Tavern 101 owner, removes a sizzling piece of meat from the on-site smoker. ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers It was love at first bite at Tavern 101 Grill & Tap House in Agoura Hills. This restaurant serves up amazing American classics and grilled barbecue that can heat up any occasion.

The delicious taste of Tavern 101’s corn bread had me swooning right from the start. There’s an unexpected secret ingredient in this bread, one of the many masterful and creative touches that head chef and owner Marco Gonzalez adds to his cuisine and to the establishment all around.

After 25 years in the business, his incredible hospitality and his skill for making some of the best—and inventive— dishes in the area are always on display.

For instance, I had an instant love affair with one of the appetizers: the smoked pork quesadilla rolls that looked a lot like tiny cupcakes. A large tortilla is stuffed with cheese and pulled pork, rolled up and cut into cupcake-size pieces that are then topped with a beautiful homemade chipotle sauce, pico de gallo and guacamole “frosting” with a dab of red sriracha sauce to complete the presentation. The taste was out of this world.

The seared ahi tacos appetizer was also top- notch. Crunchy wonton taco shells are filled with fresh, sushi-grade tuna lightly marinated in a sweet soy sauce and then topped with a lovely Asian coleslaw and a sriracha aioli that offered the exact right amount of spice. Already I couldn’t wait for the next course.

Chef Gonzalez did not disappoint. My romantic food affair continued with some of the best slow-smoked brisket I’ve ever had.

It could easily be eaten unaccompanied, but was even better snuggled in a toasted roll with barbecue sauce and a side of slaw.

The chef said he can take his mobile smoker on the road for catering events and parties, one of the popular services he offers.

Open the door of the smoker and your senses are heightened by the wonderful aroma and the sight and sound of sizzling, dripping juices that made me happy I’m still a meat eater.

The popular pulled pork sandwich was a show-stopper, and I believed Gonzalez when he said people have told him these sandwiches are even better than the ones they’ve had in Memphis. The mighty tasty coleslaw plus some of the best baked beans I’ve had in a long time further enhanced the dish.

Throw in some of the most superb baby back spareribs on the planet and an upscale version of macaroni and cheese, and I was totally smitten by Tavern 101.

The restaurant also serves a wonderful version of the American classic old-fashioned cheeseburger, which Gonzalez says is one of the restaurant’s most popular menu items.

The restaurant also offers a cozy, comfortable, casual—almost hidden—setting that is perfect for romantic getaways. It’s easy to imagine fun parties at night around the fire pit or a family gathering on the incredible outdoor patio under the giant oak tree, complete with twinkle lights and heaters.

You can even bring Rover, because the patio is pooch-friendly.

It’s easy to see that Gonzalez has a passion for his livelihood. He admits he has a hand in everything at Tavern 101.

“ I’m chef, owner, bottle washer and dishwasher,” said the humble restaurateur, who also runs a sister restaurant in Malibu called Tavern 1 Grill & Tap House.

Either of these places are where you want to go when you crave fresh and delicious barbecue favorites, quality tri-tip, rib-eye or New York strip steaks, short ribs and Louisiana-style sausages as well as seafood dishes like shrimp scampi, fish and chips and fish tacos.

Veggie lovers will appreciate the gourmet salads, homemade soups and vegetable appetizers. To quench your thirst, try the craft beers.

Check it all out for yourself at Tavern 101 Grill & Tap House, 28434 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. It’s open Mondays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (818) 991- 7227 for information.

The restaurant’s sister site, Tavern 1 Grill & Tap House, is at 21337 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The phone number is (310) 456-8000.

To make reservations or get catering information for either location, visit the website www.taverngrills.com.

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