Agave Caliente Tequila Bar: Executive Chef Julian Gonzalez combines Mexican-influenced fare with American classics.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEVIN STAMPS/FOUNDRY
The Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City buzzes with energy, with its open, airy space and soaring ceilings — not only with state-of-the-art gaming, but also with innovative dining options, including several one-of-a-kind concepts created specifically for the venue.
“We want you to come here and enjoy your time playing games and enjoying top-quality food and beverage with our unique and unexpected dining experiences,” says Ryan Drushel, Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City's director of food and beverage.
Most of the menu items are creations of Executive Chef Julian Gonzalez. A native of the port city of Tampico, Mexico, he blends regional specialties and his own family recipes with American classics to offer delicious dishes to suit every palate.
“The Mexican-influenced items are from regions that I’ve traveled to or lived in at one point in my life,” says Gonzalez, who was previously chef de cuisine at The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. “So, all the dishes have a background story, a childhood memory. There’s a reason behind them.”
His favorite dish growing up was his grandmother’s pozole. For Agua Caliente, he elevates her recipe to create Pozole Rojo “Veracruz Style,” centered around a braised pork shoulder and hominy and garnished with cabbage, radish, and oregano. It’s on the menu at the casino’s flagship restaurant Café One Eleven and its tapas-and-craft cocktail-focused Agave Caliente Tequila Bar.
“Pozole is one of those foods I crave. It’s comfort food. It could be 115 degrees outside and I still will order pozole,” he says with a laugh. “All of our dishes are approachable, but for people who might not want Mexican food, their comfort food might be a burger or fish and chips or a steak. We have that, too.”
Other standouts in the casino include 360 Sports and Java Caliente — concepts originally launched at the Agua Caliente Casinos in Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs. “We wanted to keep some continuity, but we’ve put our own spin on it,” Drushel says. “Being in Cathedral City with a large Latin culture, we really wanted to become part of the local neighborhood.”
Since opening in November 2020, the casino has also been drawing an increasing number of out-of-towners — many of whom come back again and again. “People drive from San Diego and L.A. just to come here,” Gonzalez says. “They try it once and they end up coming back for breakfast or dinner.”
Here’s the inside scoop on all of the new casino’s dining options. Menu subject to change.
"We want you to come here and enjoy your time playing games and enjoying top-quality food and beverage with our unique and unexpected dining experiences."
— Ryan Drushel, director of Food and Beverage,
Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City
Café One Eleven
Cuisine: Modern Mexican-influenced specialties, plus American classics, salads, sandwiches, and all-day breakfast.
Vibe: Elegant with earth tones against the backdrop of an open exhibition kitchen and oversized bar. A striking root sculpture-light fixture hangs above the host stand.
What to order: The 8-ounce Kurbuta Pork Chop “Al Pastor” Style with charro beans, avocado hash, and sautéed cactus; Trio de Ceviche with ahi tuna, shrimp, and octopus served ceviche or Mexican cocktail style; Mole Brownie with Mezcal-macerated strawberry sauce and cinnamon ice cream.
What to drink: A glass (or bottle) from the extensive wine list that Drushel has carefully curated, with labels hailing from throughout California as well as several lesser-known Baja wineries.
What else to know: Chef Gonzalez and his culinary team make their corn tortillas and salsas in house daily and every table gets a “salsa tree” of four different varieties. “The idea of Mexican food is the adventure of different flavors,” Gonzalez says. “I encourage guests to try a little bit of the salsa with whatever they order and find the one that piques their interest.”
Agave Caliente Tequila Bar
Cuisine: A tapas-style menu with bold flavors created to complement the agave-based spirits of tequila and mezcal served on their own or in craft cocktails.
Vibe: Chic and energetic, with lounge seating and a circular gaming bar set in the center of the casino, giving guests an eye on the action.
What to order: Tampico-Style Tuna Tacos crusted in amaranth and chipotle and wrapped in a jicama “tortilla” with avocado salsa; Mushroom Guajillo Sopes filled with oyster and white cap mushrooms; Tecate Beer-Battered Avocado accompanied by a lime-cilantro yogurt dipping sauce and classic escabeche.
What to drink: One of several Tequila Flights; the Rosa tequila-based Berry Margarita made with fresh blackberries and thyme; La Mula, a mezcal-based play on a Moscow Mule.
What else to know: Agave Caliente offers more than 100 different tequilas and mezcals, so you’ll never run out of combinations. For something special, try the Tears of Llorona, a 5-year-old extra-añejo tequila aged in scotch, sherry, and brandy barrels.
Cuisine: Elevated neighborhood bar food serving both decadent dishes, healthy fare, and sharable plates, wings, and pizzas.
Vibe: Lively and immersive, covered in state-of-the-art wrap-around screens showing the big games from every league, all with a surround-sound, and real-time score tickers.
What to order: East Coast-Style Giant Pretzel with smoked bacon, beer cheese sauce and house mustard; Chevela Shrimp Cocktail with avocado.
What to drink: The Bases Loaded Bloody Mary, garnished with bacon, celery, a Tajin rim, pickles, and peppers; craft beers on tap.
What else to know: While the venue is an offshoot of 360 Sports in Rancho Mirage, the team is in the process of introducing items exclusive to Cathedral City. “We’re getting a big following of locals coming in for games, so we’re tailoring the menu to our guests while stilling keep the Agua Caliente classics,” Drushel says.
Cuisine: Fresh-baked pastries, sweets, and bagels along with specialty coffees, teas, espresso drinks, and fruit-infused smoothies.
Vibe: A sleek coffee shop for grab-and-go items or a quick sit-down bite, open 24 hours.
What to order: Signature croissants and bear claws plus some of chef’s ever-changing, fresh-baked daily specials.
What to drink: Vietnamese Coffee Over Ice; Caramel Java Latte; Nitro Cold Brew on Tap.
What else to know: “A lot of the recipes are desserts and pastries that are common on the streets of Mexico, in panaderias (bakeries),” says Gonzalez, who points to the tri-color sugar cookies, Mexican corn bread, and wedding cookies. “There’s always something different.”
This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2021-2022 edition of Me Yah Whae, a publication of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. To view the digital edition, click HERE.
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