Thursday, August 6, 2009
Cooling off with frozen margaritas in Dallas
The following is a glimpse of what awaits you among the various frozen margarita offerings in the Dallas area.
I am not now nor will I ever be a food/drink connoisseur. Oh, sure, I love to eat and drink just as much as the next person, but the details of how and why something tastes good are mostly beyond me. I like what I like, and that's all there is to it.
So I approached our summer drink series a tad differently than my co-workers. I chose frozen margaritas (frozen just seems more apropos to summer than rocks) and attempted to separate the various versions I found into distinct categories. This was slightly difficult for two reasons: First, despite doing research, the promise of uniqueness at various stops proved somewhat untrue. Second, testing of the following margaritas all took place during one six-hour period, which was trying even with the help of my lovely wife.
And yet, we soldiered through to give you, faithful readers, a glimpse of what awaits you among the various frozen margarita offerings in the Dallas area. Two notes: 1) Due to time/location restrictions, the farthest west we got was Carrollton and farthest north was Plano. I'm sure there are many great frozen margaritas to be had in points west or north -- please tell us about them in the comments. 2) I am not claiming that the following are the best frozen margaritas in town. These are merely meant to represent the categories that I came up with. Take that as you will.
The Original: Mariano's in Dallas
Any article about frozen margaritas in Dallas has to start with the place that claims to have made the first one ever (well, from a machine, at least). Mariano's may have moved from its original location, but the pedestal celebrating that fact still holds a prominent place near the bar. Alas, the greeting on the front door -- "We made the first, we still make the best" -- was far from the case.
Their "De La Casa" ($4.95), made with cane sugar and fresh lime juice, was little more than a lime Icee with a slight kick. It did have this going for it, though -- if you're suffering from heatstroke, this will revive you in two nanoseconds. It was the coldest margarita we tried all day, so much so that it left the tips of our tongues burning and gave us our fair share of brain freezes. Mariano's bar features an ice bar to keep your drinks cold -- trust me when I say that it was unnecessary in this case.
The "It'll do in a pinch": Tin Star
The mostly Dallas-area chain (there is one location in Tulsa) was meant to represent a category we had designated as the "In Name Only" margarita, as we were under the impression that they were not allowed to use liquor despite selling beer. However, our server corrected this notion, and one taste validated the presence of tequila.
The margarita was also the sweetest of the bunch, which often made it difficult to discern whether you were wincing from the alcohol or the sugar. Still, it was an honest-to-God margarita, seemed to be one of the most generous-sized drinks all day, and, at $3.95, the cheapest. If you're craving the taste, yeah, it'll do in a pinch.
The "Off the beaten path": Agave Azul Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar in Carrollton
Okay, at its location off of I-35E just a couple miles north of 635, it's hardly in the hinterlands, but knowing the reluctance of a lot of Dallasites to venture north of LBJ, it might as well be in Canada. (The forthcoming DART Green Line Downtown Carrollton station, located close by, might make people change their minds.)
They don't know what they're missing. We tried the Mango Margarita ($8), made with a fresh mango puree. Maybe it was the mangoes that made the difference, but it was extraordinarily thick and had a creamy texture, unlike the graininess of most frozen margaritas. The alcohol was not overpowering, but also wasn't weak, and the drink had just the right amount of sweetness with no artificiality. That, along with the food, prompted promises of a return visit in the near future. Oh, and if you're interested in rocks margaritas, you might be there a while -- they have 165 different tequilas from which to choose.
The "Oh, my God, is this legal?": Ojeda's in Dallas
Several other places -- Mi Cocina, Gloria's, Manny's Uptown -- made the list for ultra-strong frozen margaritas, but we passed those by for a variety of reasons. We wanted to try Herrera's, but one location was BYOB and another was closed that day, so we ended up at Ojeda's.
Ojeda's Meltdown (normally $7, but $5 on Mondays) went down smooth with a jolt that you'd expect right away. It was definitely strong, but fell short of the knock-you-back-in-your-seat variety. It was probably the second thickest behind Agave Azul, but still never transcended the "normal" margarita you'd find in most places. You might be in trouble if you have two (there is a limit of one with no food order/three with food); since we stopped at one, it never reached that point.
Special mention should be made of Matt's Rancho Martinez in Dallas. We went there to try their house margarita ($5.75) on the promise that it was "nuclear green." Imagine our disappointment when it turned out to be standard issue -- no bells or whistles to distinguish it from any other margarita in town.
Tell us about your favorite Dallas/Fort Worth area frozen margarita in the comments below.