2017-07-14 / On The Town

Foodies will fall for Tavern 101’s fall-off-the-bone barbecue

Acorn Epicurean
Ela Lindsay

SLOW HAND—Owner Marco Gonzalez runs the meat smoker at Tavern 101 in Agoura Hills. 
ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers SLOW HAND—Owner Marco Gonzalez runs the meat smoker at Tavern 101 in Agoura Hills. 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, he has perfected all aspects of restaurateuring, including incredible hospitality and a skill for making some of the best—and inventive—dishes in the area.

For instance, I had an instant love affair with one of the appetizers: the smoked pork quesadilla rolls that visually reminded me of 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 without being too spicy. 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 totally be eaten alone, but was amazing 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 smoky aroma and the sight and sound of sizzling, dripping juices that made me happy I’m still a meat eater.

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

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 not only serves amazing smoked barbecue but superb all-American classics like a good, 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, fun parties at night around the fire pit or large family gatherings on the incredible outdoor patio.

Gonzalez seems to have thought of everything and you can tell he 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.

Tavern 101 Grill & Tap House is at 28434 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Call (818) 991-7227 for information.

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

For reservations and catering information for either location, visit www.taverngrills.com.

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