First Ohio location of taco and cocktail restaurant opens at Liberty Center

Fans of handcrafted cocktails and modern Mexican fare have a new option closer to home in Butler County’s Liberty Center.

Agave & Rye debuted last week at 7125 Fountain View Drive in Liberty Twp. offering a menu that features 17 “epic” gourmet specialty tacos, seven street tacos, plus a liquor list brimming with more than 120 tequilas and bourbons.

It’s the first Ohio location for co-owners Yavonne and Wade Sarber, who say they conceived the restaurant’s concept by taking everything they learned while operating a Columbus fine-dining establishment, including technique and proper cooking skills, and applying it to tacos.

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“We’ve taken out the white tablecloths, we’ve taken away the pretentious service, and we’ve made it approachable for people,” Yavonne Sarber said.

Part of that, she said, comes in pricing tacos between $4 and $11 and using traditional ingredients like ground beef, grilled chicken and pork, along with adventurous fare, such as butter poached lobster with mac n’ cheese and soy and ginger kangaroo tenderloin.

“For us, the taco’s a vessel,” she said. “There’s very few things, including desserts, that don’t taste great in a taco.”

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Tacos are prepared from scratch, using fresh produce and protein to create a mix of hot meats and cool toppings. The majority of them are double-shelled with crunchy corn and soft flour and can be ordered with a “Love Cushion” between the two shells — bourbon bacon refried beans, queso or guacamole — for $1 each.

The Liberty Center location features something not available at the other two Agave & Rye locations: corn tortilla street tacos made from scratch, Sarber said. If the option is successful there, it will be launched at all locations, she said.

There’s also an array of entree bowls, chips and dips, sides and “street fair,” including “Swanky Wonton Nachos” topped with ginger-marinated ahi tuna.

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Agave & Rye also offers a selection of beer, wine and craft cocktails. A “Bee Sting” features silver tequila, house agave and ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, ice and an edible flower “buzz button,” which when eaten, numbs the tongue and opens up the tastebuds.

Sarber, who is an interior designer by trade, turns to three Columbus-area artists — Giovanni Santiago of Blank Walls R Gross, Colleen Scott and Allison Paul — for all of Agave & Rye’s canvas work, murals and graffiti.

She describes the restaurant’s colorful decor as “unique, urban, funky, chic with a tad of grunge.”

“We want, from the minute you walk in the door, to go ‘What the heck is this?’ she said. “We think the atmosphere represents how awesome our food is.”

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Agave & Rye is the product of collaboration. In April 2017, the Sarbers turned to author, speaker, chef, and restaurateur Ryan Gromfin who bills himself as "The Restaurant Boss," to help fine-tune their taco concept.

In doing so, Agave & Rye wanted to present something that no one else was doing, Sarber said.

“Tacos and tequila are quite popular and people love it, but no one that I know is doing what we’re doing with tacos,” she said.

They opened their first location in spring 2018 in Covington, Kentucky, incorporating one of that state’s claims to fame — bourbon — into the tacos-and-tequila mix.

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“We knew that it would be a hit, it would be delicious, we would get the atmosphere on point, but we had no idea that it would take off the way that it did,” Sarber said.

A second location debuted in Lexington, Kentucky in June. The Sarbers, who are from Columbus, said they fell in love with Easton Town Center in Columbus and actively sought out Liberty Center for the third Agave & Rye location because the mixed use project was designed by the same developer.

“We knew what this center already was and what it was going to become and we wanted to be part of it,” Sarber said.

Hours at Agave & Rye's Liberty location are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 1o p.m. Sunday.

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