Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant: From Naked Jalapeño to Fried Ice Cream

It is a chain restaurant, with 26 locations, so some might dismiss it outright. However, as I've said before, not all chain restaurants are the same. They must each be judged on their own merits and not simply ignored because they happen to be a chain. It is fine to be skeptical, as long as you are willing to give them a chance to prove you wrong.

I've recently made a couple visits (one as a media guest and the other on my own) to the Margaritas Mexican Restaurant in Medford, at the Station Landing development. The chain was founded in 1986 and they now have 23 locations in New England, including seven in Massachusetts. The owners have made numerous trips to Mexico, for inspiration for their food and drink, as well as to purchase artwork and furniture for their restaurants. The artwork, which is throughout the restaurant, is very cool especially knowing it was all made in Mexico. There are many bright colors as well as some more somber pieces.

It is a large restaurant with a festive vibe, a good-sized bar and plenty of different dining areas. IY would be good for families or co-workers seeking a drink after work. It is also good for a group of friends to dine and chat, or a place for a casual date. The Medford location has plenty of free parking, though you will face lots of traffic in the area around rush hour.

You might want to start your lunch or dinner with a Margarita ($7-$10), and you have over twenty options available. Instead, you could go for a Mojito, Martini, Sangria or a Mexican beer. I tried the Red Berry Sangria, a blend of red wine with fresh fruit, pomegranate juice & cranberry juice, and then topped with brandy and pomegranate liqueur. It was pleasant, refreshing and not too sweet. The wine list is small, with the usual suspects, and it would be better to opt for a Margarita. The menu has about 25 different tequilas, which you could always order on their own as well.

The Original Margarita ($7.29) is good, not too alcoholic, and with plenty of bright citrus flavors. They make their own Margarita mix, called Squeeze, with fresh fruit juices and egg white, and it is also available for sale on its own for about $7. This Squeeze makes an excellent Margarita and I have bought a few jars and used them at home to very good success.

I also got to try The Beehive Paloma, an intriguing drink made with  Hornitos Spiced Honey Tequila and Jarritos Grapefruit Soda. It is carbonated like a soda, with vibrant grapefruit and citrus flavors. It wasn't overly sweet, the honey notes just accenting the citrus. An excellent and refreshing summer drink.

My favorite Margarita was the Naked Jalapeño ($9.99) which I had two ways, the basic as well as frozen. It is made with Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila, fresh lime, triple sec and simple syrup. I loved the spiciness of the tequila, especially in the frozen drink. Again, this drink is not overly sweet, being nicely balanced with the heat of the tequila. I've also been making my own Margaritas at home with Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila. It's been easier as a won a blender during the media visit.

I was surprised to learn that all of their food is made in house, from chips to salsa, guacamole to enchilada sauces. The menu is extensive, with much that is familiar, including Tacos, Fajitas, Burritos, Enchiladas, and Quesadillas. Basically everything costs under $20, with plenty in the range of $10-$15, making it a very affordable restaurant. In addition, they have a number of Daily Specials with even cheaper items. For example, they have a Happy Hour during the week with $5 Margaritas, $3 Tecate Beer, and appetizers from $1-$5. They also have another special every day, Two For $25, where you can get an Appetizer and two Entrees for only $25.

They hand-make Guacamole ($6.99) about 10-12 times a day; and you can have them add special ingredients, including Bacon, Fire Roasted Corn Salsa, Shrimp and Pineapple Salsa. I'm not a Guac guy, but my dining companions seemed to enjoy it very much.

The Mexican Grilled Corn: ($6.99), topped with chipotle aioli and queso fresco, had a nice char and a sweet and smoky taste, with the creaminess of the queso. A fine choice for an Appetizer.

The Fish Tacos del Mar ($11.29) are Baja style tacos with beer-battered fish, onion, cilantro, orange slaw, mild three-pepper sauce and avocado on white corn tortillas. Fresh ingredients, a nice crunchy batter on the fish, and a nice blend of flavors.

The Coconut Shrimp Salad ($12.79) has magic dusted shrimp tossed in coconut sauce over lettuce, salsa fresca, roasted corn salsa, cucumbers, & queso fresco with a tequila lime dressing; Again fresh ingredients with tasty and balanced tastes. The dressing was especially appealing, and made a great topping for the salad. My only quibble with this dish is that the shrimp comes from Thailand, and I would question its sustainability, especially in wake of the huge Thai slavery scandal. Why not buy U.S. Gulf shrimp instead?

The Carnitas Enchilada in Tomatillo sauce ($14.79)  are slow-roasted pork tucked inside a corn tortilla with a blend of cheeses, topped with housemade tomatillo sauce and then baked. The pork was tender and flavorful, and there was plenty of gooey cheese and a slightly smoky tomatillo sauce. A hearty choice.

For Dessert, the Fried Ice Cream ($5.99) is an excellent choice. Vanilla ice cream with a crushed pretzel shell that is covered in your choice of chocolate sauce, honey or both: A nice blend of salty and sweet, and it is big enough to share.

Another one of their Daily Specials is the  All You Can Eat Tacos ($9.99) on Tuesday. You get to choose between ground beef and chicken, hard or soft tortillas, and it comes with rice and beams. You could sit there all day, ordering taco and after taco until you burst. This is certainly a a great deal and you won't leave hungry.

Overall, I thought the food I tasted was good and definitely a nice buy for the money. The food seemed fresh, with balanced flavors, and should satisfy.  It rises above the perceived stigma of being a chain restaurant and is worth checking out.


zerry ht said...

Yeah I know about this Mexican restaurant. It is very famous chain restaurant. I haven’t been there but I would love to. I was just finding some immense event venues for my engagement party and I think this restaurant would be a great place. Isn’t it?

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