Tavern 101 Review

My husband and I were headed out to The Do-It Center in Agoura on Friday when I noticed something unusual.
“Has that turret always been up there?” I asked Phil as we drove north on Roadside Drive and passed what long ago was known as Agoura Valley Inn.

“Hmmm… I can’t remember. I know that place used to be called Willy’s. Now it’s Tavern 101?”

I had to know… had that turret always been there or was it a new feature of a building that has been sitting on Roadside Drive since the 1960’s?

Phil and I decided to investigate. But what to do with the children? We could bring them, sure, but…. Grandma was given the task of watching the children while we embarked on our mission of finding the answer to the turret question.

We pulled up to find a full parking lot and cars lining Roadside Drive. I was a little worried that the place might be packed… good for Tavern 101, but not good for my empty stomach. However, when we entered we saw there were still some seats left. The evening air was comfortable, so almost everyone was sitting on the patio. The inside of the restaurant – which I had dined in back when the place was Willy’s – retains its roadhousey, gritty feel and little light shines in from outside.

The patio is a different story. It sits lower than street level, so you don’t hear lots of noise from the 101 freeway, and there are big booths lining one side of the patio and high tables lining the other. One cozy seating area surrounds a firepit, and the remaining tables are in the middle of the patio. To the rear, a band was setting up under the beautiful oak trees – the keyboard player was actually enjoying some dinner before his set. The patio was definitely a place that I wanted to linger. I would love to return with a bigger group of people, as the atmosphere lends itself to camaraderie.

Our waiter came out promptly to take our drink order. There was an eclectic beer selection, and I chose a very tasty Mama’s Little Yella Pils, while Phil went with a Dogfish Ale (I can’t remember which one, but he loved it!). The drinks came out right away, along with a basket of cornbread. Okay… the cornbread tasted like roasted corn and butter. Who cares if it crumbled when you tried to break off a piece because once you got some in your mouth, nothing else mattered. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more – our party of 2 received three slices to share.

The band was tuning their instruments as we placed our dinner orders. Phil ordered the pulled pork sandwich and roasted corn. There were too many things for me to choose from – pulled pork wrap, tri-tip, bbq chicken, a salad…. I admit it, I panicked and quickly shouted out, “salmon salad! “

We sipped our beer and enjoyed the music and the cool atmosphere of the patio. What I loved about Tavern 101 was the assorted diners – a table next to us was filled with septuagenarians, a booth was packed with a young family and their kids, the firepit area was occupied by some kids in their twenties and there were many groups of people in their thirties and forties, like us.

The food came out really quickly. As I looked from my salad to Phil’s pulled pork and corn I knew a terrible mistake had been made. The salmon was fine, as salmon usually is, but the greens were just a little too bitter for my taste. A little bitterness here and there is fine, but there was too much and it overpowered the light cilantro dressing. Phil’s slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich was delicious. It wasn’t dripping with sauce, and I thought there was just the right amount of flavor. If you want more of a kick, there is a selection of BBQ sauces on the table. The highlight of Phil’s plate was the roasted corn – these folks know corn! If you don’t like butter, you won’t like this. The corn tasted like it was slow roasted and then took a bath in butter – the new spa treatment for corn! Next time I will order what I really want, not what I think I should. This is a BBQ place, I’m going to stick with what they do best, BBQ.

The food gone, we sat back and enjoyed the music and the relaxed, friendly vibe that floated in the warm, almost-summer air.

Oh, and the turret…. We almost forgot, but we were able to stop our very friendly waiter to find out the deets. No, we weren’t crazy, the turret was new — brand new. In fact, the sign on top had just gone up that day. Tavern 101 had asked the City of Agoura Hills for permission to build a facade on top of the building so it could be seen from the road. The City said, “no, but you can build a turret.” After an eight month process of getting permits from the city, the turret is up and alerting passers by that there’s a tavern in town.

I wish the folks at Tavern 101 the best of luck and I know I’ll keep spreading the word.

I have to add that they need to work on their Web site a bit. They *must* have their menu up there, as well as info about their live music.

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