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Agave & Rye’s menu pays homage to its original “country meets cosmopolitan” location.

Agave & Rye: A modern tequila and bourbon hall merging country and cosmopolitan

Meet the Kentucky-based Hot Concept founded by Yavonne Sarber

Agave & Rye — a concept with a focus on fancy tacos and strong drinks — got its start in Covington, Ky., a location on the Ohio River where, thanks to a big entertainment district, country meets cosmopolitan.

The concept itself pays homage to that idea, with an “urban grunge” feel and craveable menu items, like The Crown Jewel taco with truffled mac ‘n cheese and lobster. Craft cocktails run the gamut from modern to traditional. Order a margarita and then change it up with a whiskey-cherry Dr. Pepper slushie.

Join us in Denver Oct. 4-6 for CREATE: The Future of Foodservice, to hear from Yavonne Sarber live.

At each of Agave & Rye’s 10 locations, founder/CEO Yavonne Sarber and her team have created a unique aesthetic that again volleys between fine art and street art, all curated to match that particular locale’s vibe. The concept partners with various community organizations, such as the Community Improvement Corporation of the City of Hamilton, a location outside Cincinnati that was its fourth Ohio unit and seats 100 guests indoors, 200 guests outdoors and employs 50–60 people from the community.

From the guests’ perspective, Sarber emphasizes the idea of a fun getaway experience.

“We truly feel we’ve created an escape,” Sarber said, referring to the eclectic mix of atmosphere, food and drink where guests are invited to cut loose and play a little. “We’ve started calling Agave & Rye a ‘playground.’ We’re creating something that causes guests to want to leave their homes to experience something amazing and one-of-a-kind.”

Agave & Rye only first launched in 2018 and quickly raced to a double-digit location count.

“When we first started in the restaurant industry, we didn’t yet know what we didn’t know,” Sarber said. “A lot of new restaurants are in the same boat where you’re doing everything you can to get your food and environment right, all while realizing it’s hard to run a proper restaurant, even with those elements perfectly in place.”

2.jpgPhoto: Yavonne Sarber founded Agave & Rye in 2018 and has already grown it to 10 units.

In spite of the added challenge that was the COVID-19 pandemic, Agave & Rye has maintained a growth mindset that borders on aggressive.

“A growth mindset, in part, means that you understand that it’s hard … and still, you choose to persevere,” Sarber said. “In today’s age, there’s so much information available at your fingertips. Continue reading to educate yourself. Knowledge is power. Keep searching and learn and crave the feeling of success you get when you learn something new or solve a problem.”

Part of the Agave & Rye ethos is a deep commitment to its employees and providing an environment that team members want to be a part of.

“Our hope is that we change the way employees view working in a restaurant,” Sarber said. “It’s hard work and can require long hours. The addiction rate among restaurant employees is alarmingly high. We want to change that within our industry and make work something employees look forward to spending their time doing.”

Agave & Rye now offers healthcare, and Sarber said it’s also at the top of the pay scale. “And it’s only going to get better,” she said.

While Agave & Rye has big plans for continued growth, it’s not resting on its laurels in the creativity department. The team is in the development stages of Papi Jocho’s, a new restaurant concept featuring Mexican street food. Another concept, a rock ‘n roll steakhouse, is also in the works.

Meanwhile, franchising and licensing opportunities will be available for employees.

Contact Tara Fitzpatrick at [email protected] 

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