Restaurateurs like Richard Lucio know a thing or two about the industry. His father, Joe Lucio, owned a prominent chain of Mexican restaurants in the Denver-metro area for several decades and now, Richard Lucio is leaving his own legacy. Between popular restaurants like Coyote’s Southwestern Grill, Palomino Mexican Restaurant and Blue Agave Grill, Lucio’s family of restaurants are popular favorites in the Northern Colorado region.
And now Lucio is ready to take his success south into Denver, opening up a second location of the very successful Blue Agave Grill.
“Blue Agave was always what we wanted to do.”
Known as a popular hotspot in Fort Collins for the past 3 years, Blue Agave Grill wasted no time in developing a large fan base. Given its success in the noted college (and foodie) town, Lucio was ready to expand to Denver’s bustling 16th St Mall. “Denver is growing, there’s no doubt,” Lucio says, “but here on the 16th St mall, we’re close to the theatre district and convention center. We’re eager to join the established restaurants in the area and be here for many years to come.”
Seated in the new Blue Agave Grill location in downtown Denver, I can’t help but take in its design. It feels carefully conceived but executed effortlessly, creating a comfortable, yet sophisticated, dining space
“Who did you work with for design?” I ask.
Lucio laughs, “My wife!”
The interior of Blue Agave Grill features a thoughtful mix of warm woods inlaid with turquoise-blue tiles, bright accent walls and unique art pieces. It’s clear that Lucio’s wife, Brenda, has considered all design aspects of the space, from granite selections to accent colors and décor. Lucio proudly describes his plans for the addition of frosted glass agave leaves and delicate ironwork that will adorn the railings near the entryway.
Lucio and Executive Chef Garrett Adler are careful to describe Blue Agave not as a Mexican restaurant (which Lucio already counts in his portfolio of restaurants), but as a contemporary Southwestern concept, which gives them more flexibility with the menu.
“Anything goes,” Adler tells me.
Entrées like Spicy Fettuccine or Teriyaki Salmon comingle with more traditional offerings like tacos and enchiladas (and even then, Blue Agave’s Top Shelf Enchiladas filled with shrimp and lobster are an elevated twist on the classic). “It’s how you infuse a certain chile, sauce or spice into the dish,” Chef Adler tells me, “Ancho, Chipotle, Poblano and Serrano chiles are some of our favorites to work with.” In addition, Lucio and Adler are acutely aware of individual dining preferences and restrictions, which is why the versatility of Blue Agave’s menu also lends itself to flexible substitutions—with most of its menu either Gluten Free or with a Gluten Free option.
“My biggest pleasure is watching [customers] take their first bite,” says Lucio.
Consistency is key when it comes to creating a solid menu that guests love and expect, which is why Chef Adler is most excited about the addition of a sous vide machine at Blue Agave Grill. “It opens up a whole new world of cooking,” Chef Adler tells me, “With sous vide we can get fall-off-the-bone tender each and every time.” When Adler isn’t busy training staff or setting up the kitchen at the new Denver location, he’s eagerly reading up on sous vide cooking techniques, like those outlined by Chef Thomas Keller in Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.
Of course, while fancy (and expensive) new cooking equipment is always fun in the kitchen, there will always be a place for an old reliable like the spatula, “It’s the million-dollar cooking utensil—you can use for anything,” Lucio says.
“This Is What We Do”
For many restaurateurs with a passion for the food industry, it’s expected to build great relationships along the way. Take Chef Adler, who has been an employee of the Lucios for the better part of 11 years. Having grown up just a couple of blocks away from Lucio’s first restaurant concept, Adler worked his way up in Coyote’s Southwestern Grill until he left to complete a stint in culinary school. Soon after graduation Adler was called back to the family of restaurants by Brenda Lucio, with a proposition to lead the charge in opening their newest concept, Blue Agave Grill.
Lucio knows that providing good service goes hand-in-hand with a strong menu, which is why new staff undergo a rigorous training schedule. New servers have the opportunity to taste the entire food menu and receive several hours of training on the wine list and margarita/bar menus. Lucio hopes that by empowering his staff they will have the skills and knowledge needed to take care of guests such as providing recommendations, menu options ideal for dietary restrictions, and much more.
Blue Agave recently celebrated the grand opening of its Denver location. Over 100 people attended the party at its new Denver digs, indulging in passed hors d’oeuvres, drinks and more. Lucio hopes this kickoff is the start to a new adventure in the heart of Denver.
For Adler, he’s just eager to find a new rhythm.
“There’s no better feeling when everything is rolling”
Blue Agave Grill is located at 1201 16th St #104 in Denver, CO and is open daily for lunch and dinner, in addition to brunch from 10-2 on Saturdays and Sundays. Learn more about Blue Agave Grill at http://www.blueagavegrillcolorado.com/.