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The Gatekeepers: Eric Rubin, Tres Agaves

Jennifer Yin, 2/20/08

If there's a go-to spot for tequila in town, it's probably Tres Agaves, the brainchild of Joseph Manzare (also of Globe, Zuppa and Pescheria), Dave Stanton and the subject of today's edition of Gatekeepers, Eric Rubin. Though some, including one Michael Bauer, may suggest that the swanky Mexican restaurant's best days are in the past, it remains a SoMa hot spot, especially during baseball season, because surely tequila is always in demand. More often than not, Mr. Eric Rubin can be found working the door.

Eric "Rubes" Rubin, Managing Partner of Tres Agaves, aka one of the Tequileros: 125 in the dining room, 100 in the bar, 24 in the Tequila Tasting Room, 115 in La Plaza del Agave. Table 12 is my favorite two-top if you're on a good date. Seat 2 has a great view of the entire restaurant. Seat 1 has a view of your date, so it only works if the date is going well. I also love the lower stools at the end of the bar, so you can watch the bartenders in action.

8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? At least 30 minutes, but usually no more than an hour. Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? "I have an extra ticket to the Giants game." ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? Actually, what works best is having young children with you. We always try to seat families as quickly as possible. But of course not everyone can commit to the 9-month waiting period to make that happen.

Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? Our all-time favorite customer is Renel, aka ‘The Voice of the Giants’. She is fun, gracious, a big Tequila fan, and a sparkplug to get any party going. Gary Shansby, the local financier who owns Partida Tequila, is another favorite. Our staff members love to hang out with him and talk Tequila. We also get a lot of current and retired pro athletes that come in. Quite a few chefs come in to eat and drink Tequila. Hiro Sone & Lissa Doumani, of Ame and Terra, are staff favorites. My personal industry hero, Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago, came in two weeks ago. Definitely a thrill for me.

How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? Fortunately we have a lot of “show and tell” things in the restaurant that make for a great tour. For example; we have the only tahona, a 2-ton lava rock wheel used to crush agaves, on display outside of Mexico. And our bartenders are all consummate professionals, and every single one has been to visit Tequila distilleries in Mexico. So it’s never a problem leaving a VIP waiting for a table in their hands for a while. ..the owner’s friends? That usually means my friends. They are all pretty easy, a margarita or two and they are fine.

What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? We had to clear Kenny Lofton’s table once for an impromptu dance in the private dining room. He bet someone at the table, who was celebrating a birthday, that she wouldn’t dance to a Parliament song if it came on the radio. One of my friends overheard the bet, called one of his friends who worked at a radio station, and a Parliament song came on in less than three minutes. She was a trooper and got right up on the table and danced. I’ve never seen so many cell phone cameras being used at once. ...that you couldn’t accommodate? It involved members of a bachelorette party and our organic agave nectar. Although from a dining standpoint it was a healthy & nutritional request, we had to say no.

What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? My sense of humor, and of course love of 100% agave Tequila!


130 Townsend Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 (415) 227-0500 Visit Website