From gourmet truck to stand alone restaurant to second location, the team at Sol Agave is embracing their restaurant’s growth and extending their reach to not only include San Juan Capistrano, but Mission Viejo’s Union Market. I sat down for dinner with Jessie Galvez (one of the business partners) to learn more about their thriving concept.
How did you and Chef Manny meet?
Chef Manny and I met in the summer of 2014. We both quickly realized that we both have the same dream, passion and commitment that it would take to one day open our own concept. We would often eat lunch together, and daydream about the idea of opening and combining both of our culinary backgrounds, and sharing this to Orange County. And hopefully, California.
What inspired the idea for the gourmet truck? And why keep the truck around, now that you have a brick-and-mortar?
One day, when I was watching the movie Chef, I paused in the middle of the movie. I started to quickly realize that that could possibly be us. So I dialed Chef Manny (which, of course he didn’t answer) and I left a voicemail. I told him, “I know that you probably don’t remember me, or maybe you did. We worked together in the summer of 2014, and I was just watching this movie Chef. I’m pretty sure that we have something here, since we daydreamed about the idea of one day starting our own concept. This would be a great opportunity to go out and meet different types of people, and test the market to specifically see what cities would be ready for the concepts we thrive in.”
We keep our truck around, even though we now have a successful brick-and-mortar, quite simply because we never want to forget where we came from. We are proud of our humble beginnings, and we never want to take anything for granted. It’s also a great marketing tool.
How will the menu in Mission Viejo differ (if at all) from your San Juan Capistrano location?
Our menu for Mission Viejo will be a little different. We’re excited to introduce new flavors and presentations. For example, we are cooking on mesquite wood and having our gourmet taqueria section. We are also excited to introduce a few more tableside options, including our Ceviche a la Mesa, which will be preparing ceviche tableside for our guests.
What distinguishes Sol Agave from similar concepts?
What distinguishes Sol Agave from other concepts is that Sol Agave only uses the freshest, highest quality ingredients. For instance, we use organic meats for our carnitas and our grilled chicken. We use prime steaks, and for seafood we only use the freshest items. Also, we try to use organic as much as possible when it comes to salads and other types of veggies and grains. The concept in general is that we want to be known as a different type of layer of Mexican food, but without sacrificing the authenticity of the food and flavor of Mexico.
Tell me about some signature items on the menu, such as the Para Dos.
What we are known for her at Sol Agave is our carnitas plate. We use organic, all-natural pork, which is very juicy and tender. We serve that with guacamole, sour cream, rice, beans and handmade corn tortillas. However, our specialty is seafood and steak. And that is why Sol Agave Para Dos is a perfect signature dish that we have on the menu, because our guests get to tour a little bit of our menu; all our signature items in one dish.
You mentioned that opening at Kaleidoscope’s plaza is coming full circle for you; please elaborate.
My venture with the Kaleidoscope started in late 2012, when I came to join El Torito Grill at the Kaleidoscope plaza. I often daydreamed every time I was going up the elevator, escalator or stairs (when sometimes the elevators or escalators were down) that one day I would come back as an owner. Back then, Kaleidoscope was the happening place in Mission Viejo. And we are certain and hopeful that the Kaleidoscope will once again return to be the go-to place when it comes to Mission Viejo. It’s just the whole vibe of Kaleidoscope that I felt keen to. We are a family restaurant, and we know for a fact that our concept will be well-received in the plaza.
Let’s talk about Chef Manny’s culinary background, including the award he won.
Chef Manny Velasco has been working since the age of 16, starting as a line cook. After two short years he became the kitchen manager. He then moved to the resort side and worked for Montage Laguna Beach, where he again started as a line cook and ended as a hot line chef. Finally, he concluded (or he expanded?) his restaurant industry experience in late 2013 when he started at Savannah Chop House in Laguna Niguel as a sous chef, then becoming executive chef. He was there for over 14 years. From there, he went on to consult for different restaurants including Carmelita’s and Amorelia.
He was recently just awarded the Rising Star Chef of the Year in Orange County at the Golden Foodie Awards. As for Sol Agave, we have been named the best new restaurant in San Juan Capistrano, and we also won three Golden Horse Shoe Awards: One for Most Creative, one for Best Appetizer and the other for Most Unique.
Will Sol Agave Mission Viejo be open for lunch and dinner? How about brunch and Happy Hour?
Sol Agave will be open for lunch and dinner. Our regular hours will be Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. We are happy to introduce Happy Hour every day from 3-6 p.m. We’ll discount our appetizer menu and both our signature and regular drinks. Sol Agave will have an amazing brunch menu that would be available within a month after opening for the public. Hopefully by May 2.
Sol Agave will be inside Union Market Mission Viejo, on the top floor of Kaleidoscope. 27741 Crown Valley Pkwy., www.solagavesjc.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.