Out of town report: Los Agaves (Santa Barbara)

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As I sit in my office staring out at the dreary, rainy, gray weather outside, I can’t believe that less than a week ago, I was basking in the Southern California sun wearing shorts and sandals. I totally get why West Coasters are so damn smug about their weather. How can you not be in a fantastically good mood when you wake up and you know it is 75 degrees outside, there is not a single cloud in the sky and the air is perfectly breezy with no humidity?

The last Saturday of our trip, my dad and I had a date. My mother unexpectedly had to fly to Paris to take care of my grandmother, and my sister and brother-in-law went back to New Jersey, leaving my father and I with a free day to ourselves before our red-eye to DC. We decided to head to Santa Barbara for a few hours to soak in the wonderful weather and fill our stomachs with one last good meal. The internet recommended several spots for lunch, and I settled on Los Agaves, a casual Mexican restaurant with a unique menu.

The drive to Santa Barbara took about an hour and we found the restaurant with no trouble. The restaurant itself is extremely bright, both from the sunlight coming in through the big windows, and the colorful decor. After ordering at the counter, we sat down and were immediately given a big basket of warm, crunchy, tortilla chips. I headed over to the salsa bar to explore my options, where there were almost a dozen options, and decided to get a sampling of all of the salsas. I liked the salsa aguacate, containing avocado, garlic, onion, tomatillos and jalapeno peppers the best, while my dad enjoyed the fresh pico de gallo.

Our food arrived shortly in massive platters. My dad ordered the Molcajete, a thick seafood stew with jumbo shrimp, steak, chili and avocado. I tried a few bites and enjoyed the spicy broth, which was very flavorful although slightly salty. I went with the Carne Azteca, a large plate of grilled steak, stuffed Anaheim peppers, grilled nopalito and chorizo, beans, and avocado. The steak was incredibly tender, and I mixed each bite with a piece of cheese-stuffed pepper, beans and avocado. I also enjoyed the charred chorizo, which was smoky and slightly salty. The salt factor in this meal definitely made me grateful that I had squeezed in a run that morning. Both of our colossal dishes were served with hot tortillas which were thick and chewy. I only managed to eat half of a tortilla because my stomach had limited space and I had prioritized conquering the meat on my plate, but was a big fan of those bites.

After doing our best to finish these two dishes, we were pretty stuffed and spent the next few hours walking around State Street and the Waterfront, trying to burn off at least a small fraction of our lunch. My father is someone I always love spending time with. Although he can be a little gruff, and at times, brutally honest, I thoroughly enjoy all of his stories (ranging from childhood memories of Vietnam to tangents on good wine and ballroom dancing) and appreciate his advice on life and love. As we wandered through Santa Barbara with satisfied bellies, I listened to my dad talk to me about his struggle to conquer the stock market while raising two girls, as well his relationship with my mother, and I thought about how lucky I am. Of course, it is great to have a dad who likes eating (almost) as much as I do. But more importantly, I feel so fortunate that I have an incredible role model, a man who shows me every day what it means to put family and love first.

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