Yep, it’s that time of year again: Sunday, February 22 is Margarita Day. I don’t know about you, but that’s a national holiday in my house! Get yer drinkin’ shoes on and get ready to celebrate the sweet-tart agave-cocktail deliciousness that is The Margarita. Actually, the third weekend in February is National Margarita Weekend. Not sure how we went from Margarita Day to Margarita Weekend (or who decides these things), but I’m not about to argue. A well-crafted margarita is one of life’s joys — especially when you can indulge on a sunny February afternoon with your nearest and dearest (or maybe just some super-fun folks who share your love of this summery drink).
If you’ve been around these parts for a while (650Food, that is), then you know I love my margaritas. Of course, enjoying margaritas comes down to enjoying tequila — and if you don’t, then what’s the point? Sure, a bad Jose Cuervo experience could have put me off the agave spirit for life (not that I know anything about that sort of thing), but learning about the nuances and flavor profiles of tequila has made all the difference. Closest analogy? If you’re a scotch whisky drinker, then you’ll likely appreciate a well-made tequila, particularly an aged tequila, such as a reposado or anejo. As I’ve said before: good ingredients are the starting point of a good cocktail.
Often I’ll find a tequila that just hits all the right flavor notes, and then figure out which additional components — citrus, berry, spice, liqueurs, and syrups — will help it shine through in a cocktail. I’ve written about a few of my home-bar favorites, which incorporate tequilas that have a local or regional connection: a Spicy Cucumber Margarita that uses jalapeno-infused Tres Agaves and a seasonal Blood Orange Margarita that uses Campeon.
But what if you don’t want to DIY when it comes to enjoying margaritas? What if you want to let someone else do the work, while you kick back and enjoy? Don’t worry, 650Food has gotcha covered with hands-on research and a roundup of some of the best places to get ya ‘rita on. Just to keep things even, I assembled a list of “must haves” for a quality margarita experience in the 650:
- Broad selection of tequilas: Natch. Hey, the cocktail experience is just that much nicer when you can choose your favorite brand.
- Variety of margaritas on the menu: Not everyone’s palate is the same, so let’s make sure there’s a little something for everyone. At a minimum, I’d like to see a classic, something sweet or tropical, and something spicy.
- Fresh, hand-made margaritas: No frozen concoctions or jug pours, thanks.
- Snacks: Whether it’s chips and salsa or ahi poke, you’ll want something to nosh while you imbibe.
- Bonus — Outdoor seating: Hello, it’s the 650, and we have great weather! Why not get out and enjoy it with your Margarita?
If you’ve got a favorite margarita spot in the 650 that you want to share, post to the comments below or on the 650Food Facebook page. Happy Margarita Weekend!
Best for Old-School Mexican Restaurant Vibe: La Fiesta (Mountain View)
La Fiesta is a classic; it’s family-owned and has been around since 1977. It’s not fancy, but the service is warm and friendly, and the margaritas are spot-on. The Margarita menu divides La Fiesta’s cocktails in The Classics! (exclamation point included!) and “Have You Been to…” in which cocktails are named after Mexican cities and regions.
Be sure to try Arturito’s Margarita (Cazadores Anjeo, fresh lime, sweet & sour, and triple sec), which is a nicely balanced, tasty cocktail that’s served up in a martini glass.
If you want a more “classic” style margarita, go for the Puebla: Corralejo Reposado, Cointreau, sweet & sour, and fresh lime.
What: La Fiesta
Where: 240 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: Mon–Thu 11am–2pm and 5pm–9pm; Fri 11am–2pm and 5pm–10pm; Sat 11am–10pm; Sun 11am–9pm
Parking: Lot and street
Best for Fun, Contemporary Cocktails: Milagros (Redwood City)
You want variety? You got it! Milagros lists their cocktails by taste, so if you’ve got a hankering for tart, sweet, or spicy, Milagro’s servers and bartenders can point you to the right spot on the menu or offer suggestions. (The only outlier here is “Specialties,” which is a bit of a catch-all.) You like spicy? Then try the Mexican Hipster: El Jimador blanco, jalapeno, muddled cucumbers, lime juice, organic agave and a splash of soda. Balanced and flavorful, you’ll want another round of this one!
Love blood orange? Make sure to try the Blood Orange Margarita (seasonal)! Made with Espolon Reposado, muddled blood oranges, and cold pressed citrus juices, it hits that fine mark between sweet, juicy orange and tart rind. Want something closer to a classic margarita, but with a twist? Then try the Capella: Cazadores Reposado, Grand Marnier, lime, orange, and red ruby grapefruit juices.
What: Milagros Cantina
Where: 1099 Middlefield Road, Redwood City, CA 94062
Hours: Mon–Fri 11:30am–10pm; Fri 11:30am–10pm; Sat 11:30am–10pm; Sun 11:30am–9pm
Parking: Street or public lots (pay)
Best for Having It Your Way: Fiesta del Mar Too (Mountain View)
Fiesta del Mar Too has an extensive, almost dizzying, list of tequilas (200 or so!) and margarita variations. Just so you know, most of the margaritas that are on Fiesta del Mar Too’s menu are of the “classic” variety. No hipster variations with housemade bitters or St. Germain liqueur here! If you can imagine your favorite combination of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime, Fiesta del Mar’s bartenders can make it.
The house margarita is made with El Jimador Silver and Triple Sec. I opted for The Stallion (yeah, baby!): Corralejo Anejo, Cointreau, and fresh lime. (FYI: the drink is typically made with triple sec, but I upgraded to Cointreau for a dollar extra.) You can’t go wrong with any margarita on the menu, but for tequila lovers and aficianados who want what they want, Fiesta del Mar is the place. Just be aware that some substitutions come with a small upcharge.
What: Fiesta del Mar Too
Where: 735 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: Mon–Thu 11:30am–9pm; Fri 11:30am–10pm; Sat 12pm–10pm; Sun 12pm–9pm
Parking: Lot behind the restaurant and street
Best for San Francisco Style without Leaving the 650: Tacolicious (Palo Alto)
Tacolicious, known for interesting cocktails and fresh, street-food-style tacos in its Mission and Marina locations now has an outpost in Palo Alto. The space is open, contemporary, and bright, with outdoor seating right on Emerson. The cocktail menu skews more to the new/contemporary style. My favorite, hands down, was the Nopal: Don Julio Blanco, prickly pear, citrus, and a touch of agave. You have to try this one!
The drink is perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, while letting the tequila shine through. (Thanks to bartender Noelle for her recommendation!) The classic Margarita de la Casa and tropical Mucho Gusto (Pueblo Viejo Blanco, pineapple, coconut water) are also popular choices, according to the bar staff.
Where: 632 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Hours: Sun–Wed 11:30am–10pm; Thu 11:30am–11pm; Fri–Sat 11:30am–midnight; Sun 11:30am–9pm
Parking: Street or public lots
Best for Sitting at the Bar and Watching the Game: The Office Bar & Grill (San Carlos)
It can be a challenge to find a neighorhood sports bar that serves a well-made margarita — a place where you can sit at the bar, watch the game, and enjoy American classics, like Chili Cheese Fries or a BLT. Fortunately, The Office is just that kind of place: a spot where you can enjoy a casual bar experience and indulge in a tasty margarita. The cocktail list isn’t as extensive as, say, Fiesta del Mar Too’s, but The Office covers the basics: spicy (“The Office” Margarita), sweet (The Interview from Hell Margarita), and tropical (Hibiscus Margarita).
I took my bartender’s recommendation for The Office Margarita, a flavorful, spicy mix of Cazadores tequila, muddled jalapeno, cucumber, fresh lime, triple sec, and sweet and sour. While The Office Margarita is spicier than Milagro’s Mexican Hipster on the back palate (the spice lingers), it’s still a balanced, fresh-tasting cocktail. Enjoy this one with an appetizer or sandwich from The Office’s food menu.
What: The Office Bar & Grill
Where: 1748 El Camino Real, San Carlos, Ca 94070
Bar Hours: Mon–Wed 11am–midnight; Thu–Fri 11am–2am; Sat 8:30am–2am; Sun 8:30am–midnight
Parking: Lot or street