There’s something in the air at local farmers’ markets: “Customers cannot walk by one of our…booths without stopping to smell the aroma of our tacos cooking,” says owner and chef Jaime Mendez. The scent comes from the Mayan annatto seasoning, Mendez’s signature ingredient. All ingredients at Los Agaves Catering are sourced locally, including the meats. That—and the “tacos al pastor” machine (a meat roaster)—is why his tacos taste uniquely fresh, Mendez says.
Growing up in Mexico City, Mendez watched his father and grandfather create fiesta-worthy feasts, and the family passion must have been contagious. In 2001, Mendez landed a full scholarship to the Culinary Arts School at Seattle Community College. After graduating in 2006, he opened Los Agaves Restaurant (Kent, 24020 104th Ave. SE; 425.241.8131; losagaves.net) with the help of his brothers Alfredo Mendez (now Los Agaves’ head chef) and Oscar Mendez (who has since moved on to start his own restaurant), and his fiancée, Sophia Valdez (event coordinator), using recipes developed by Mendez’s mother, Catalina Jimenez. The company operates stands at local farmers’ markets and offers catering services, recently expanding its catering menu to include Mediterranean dishes. “My favorite dish is the Spanish paella: a traditional rice cooked in saffron seasoning, with clams, mussels, prawns, chorizo sausage and chicken breast, garnished with roasted red peppers and fresh herbs,” says Mendez. A new catered bar service features cocktails made with seasonal fruits.
You can find Los Agaves at five farmers’ market locations, including the Queen Anne market on Thursday and the Fremont Market on Sunday (visit losagaves.net for details). Try a plate of three tacos ($5) or a big plate of nachos ($8). Tortas (warm Mexican sandwiches) are $6. Arrive early—the food goes fast. Jessica Orr