U.S. Highway 281 cuts the country in half, running north-south from the border with Canada and International Peace Garden in Manitoba to the Mexican border in Brownsville, Texas. Along the way, it winds through the Texas Hill Country, bypassing Austin. It’s a peaceful road framed by ranchland, cedar and live oak trees and about every quarter mile or less by deer processing businesses. The highway is also dotted with small towns in which barbecue joints and Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants abound. El Agave, an adobe-style structure with a festive interior that includes lacquered booth seats bearing tropical and Mexican iconography carved into them and painted with a bright-the-better aesthetic, in Johnson City, Texas, is one of those establishments.
The menu includes Mexican and Tex-Mex standards and 12 tacos, of which I selected three: carnitas, barbacoa and carne guisada with cheese, the latter based on the recommendation of our waitress.
All were ordered on house-made flour tortillas, pillowy, thick discs in the Central Texas style. They were fantastic.
Not so the carne guisada, a thick slop cinched together by orange, stinky-shoe shredded cheese that I was unable to finish. The barbacoa was a little better, not sopping with grease nor as dry or as thin as twine. But it was El Agave’s carnitas, sweet chunks of alluring pork fried in its own fat, that won the day, rivaling some of the best I’ve had locally and perhaps worth returning for.El Agave Mexican Restaurant 408 N. U.S. Highway 281
Johnson City, TX 78636 830-868-0812