Cool Fusion

Cool Fusion

Blink and you’ll probably miss Seymour’s Agave Diner, but only if you’re an out-of-towner. Seymour residents have been frequenting this prefab charmer at Route 67 and Columbus Street, skirted to the west by an elevated Route 8, since 1951, when it was known as Nash’s. Thirty-five years later it became a beloved breakfast spot, Tony’s—but since Tony Librandi and his wife Carmella retired earlier this year, another married couple have made the space their own.

Lauren Hassan and Antonio Perez had dreamed of owning a small restaurant—with just four booths and 11 counter stools, Agave’s capacity is about 25—but not necessarily a diner. They went into the food service business together when Hassan, a dietician and culinary school graduate, and Perez, a chef who worked at a variety of restaurants, wanted to align their daily schedules. Initially, they collaborated on a Mexican food truck, Wandering Agave, which still rents out for special events and popup appearances at other community venues. “My husband had really missed creating the flavors he grew up with,” Hassan says. Featuring favorites like tacos made with heirloom corn tortillas and refried beans, the truck became so popular that when the couple announced they were opening their own place, customers “begged us to put our Mexican dishes on the menu.”

When they found the diner location, they ran with it, deciding to serve just breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. “We have two young children, and those hours coincide with school hours,” Hassan explains. The couple is fascinated by the fact that when first constructed, the diner came as a kit, with all the equipment, booths, plates and flatware needed to get it operating. Before opening in September, they restored its original 1950s paneling and tile flooring, installed period-correct pendant lights (along with some subtle, sleek contemporary lighting) and purchased classic Fiestaware dishes and cutlery. They also added a clear personal touch: a mural commemorating Mexico, painted by self-described local “outsider artist and weirdo extraordinaire” Mike Giglietta.

South-of-the-border dishes abound, but if that’s not your taste, no worries. Classic American fare ranges from made-to-order egg platters, omelets and pancakes to BLTs, burgers and salads. Vegetarians and vegans in search of non-dairy and protein alternatives won’t be disappointed, either. “If a menu selection features meat or eggs, we can substitute a tofu scramble or swap in a meat alternative,” Hassan says, including soy chorizo and other plant-based options like Impossible Burger and Beyond Sausage.

Being a Mexican food fanatic, I first chose the Agave Special ($13.95), a deceptively simple plating that featured two as-runny-as-I-love-them fried eggs; Agave’s signature refried beans and corn tortillas (the best I’ve ever tasted); and home fries and longaniza (a sausage akin to chorizo, but spicier and denser). I could have gone with bacon, thin-sliced NY strip steak or any other style of egg, but this combo melded perfectly.

Upon a return visit, I satisfied my sweet tooth with Churro French Toast ($11.95): three slices of brioche bread soaked in vanilla custard, then grilled, tossed in cinnamon sugar, smothered with blueberries and sliced strawberries and drizzled with dulce de leche syrup. (A gourmand by nature, I even added some of the diner’s maple sugar-melted butter syrup blend.) I expected to feel overly satisfied after finishing the dish, but it was surprisingly light, even with the side of longaniza I added.

Next time around, I may opt for Agave’s top seller, the Mexican Benedict ($12.95 with carnitas, a pork dish that translates as “little meats,” and chipotle Hollandaise) or the breakfast burrito, a giant flour tortilla stuffed with refried beans, home fries, melted cheese, avocado, crema, salsa verde and your choice of protein. Should I find a stool available at lunch hour, I’ll probably try the authentic Cubano sandwich ($14.95—ham, carnitas and Swiss cheese on a Portuguese roll, topped with pickled jalapeño and onion, Dijon mustard and a fried egg) or a Taco Platter with tequila shrimp ($10.95). Though the diner’s corn and beans come from small family farms in Mexico, many other ingredients on the menu are locally sourced, such as mushrooms from Prospect’s all-vegan Union City Farm, coffee from New Britain’s Alvarium Roasting Co. and squash from Northford’s DeFrancesco Farm.

Local customers have joined the local ingredients; I was warned that if I wanted to eat here on a Sunday, I’d “better come before church lets out” to avoid the line snaking along the street. Future goals include expanding the diner’s business to include renting it out for smaller-sized special events and hosting occasional dinners. In October, Hassan and Perez served a three-course celebration as a prelude to a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Seymour’s venerable neighborhood movie theater The Strand. Dishes included “Eddie’s Ribs” (braised beef short ribs with polenta and “Transylvanian beans”), “Columbia’s Legs” (Colombian-style chicken cooked in savory tomato sauce) and the “Rocky Horror Split” (a banana split with dulce de leche). The couple say the next dinner, not scheduled yet, will focus on regional Oaxacan cuisine, known for its moles, mezcal and, Hassan says, “giant, thin, super crispy tortillas. They’re almost as if a pizza and a quesadilla had a baby.”

Only two months in, Agave Diner is itself a baby. But it’s growing up fast.

The Agave Diner
46 Columbus St, Seymour (map)
Tues-Sun 7am-2pm
(203) 463-0005

Written by Patricia Grandjean. Image 1, featuring Lauren Hassan and Antonio Perez, and image 3, of the Agave Special, photographed by Patricia Grandjean. Images 2, 4 and 5 photographed by Dan Mims.

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