Chava’s Mexican Restaurant, Margarita Run III Stop #1 – Edwardsville, IL

I had not planned on doing a particular Margarita Run like I had done twice before on this night. However, it was National Margarita Day and we had been invited by friends to one Mexican Restaurant in my hometown of Edwardsville, IL. So I made a quick decision that night to hit a few other places in Edwardsville, including a couple of new places. Our first stop was Chava’s Mexican Restaurant.

I had done a review of another Chava’s in St. Louis many years ago. The two restaurants are part of the same ownership so I figured the Margarita might be similar, albeit many years apart so perhaps things had changed. I ordered their House Margarita on the rocks* and I can best describe the flavor as “mild” or “soft”. There was not a strong hit of flavor, however it was a nice blend of citrus and sweet taste nonetheless. It had a little bit of a bitter finish but nothing that truly was detracting. I would have preferred a more defined lime flavor, a stronger tequila hit, and perhaps a bit less sweetness. Overall it was a good, but average Margarita that I rate as a 7.

*Side note, I believe frozen “margaritas” to not be real Margaritas. Sure, they might be tasty and I have no problem with them in general. In fact, I had a drink on a Mexican resort many years ago called a Iceberg, where it was a Corona Beer with a topping of frozen margarita. The lime flavor of the frozen margarita went very well with the Corona beer flavor. That being said, the fact you’re drinking a frozen beverage means that you are desensitizing your tastebuds from whatever you are drinking and you are masking whatever flavor there is. Plus frozen margaritas are usually made from a mix and if you’ve read enough of my blog you know that I much prefer handmade Margaritas with fresh ingredients.

Pink Taco – Las Vegas, NV

My final Margarita review from my first trip to Las Vegas was from the Pink Taco Mexican Restaurant located in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where my girlfriend and I were staying for a business conference. Unfortunately, it is very likely that the Pink Taco will not be in existence in that location by the time you read this article. It just so happened that we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on the very last week of its existence. The day we checked out there were already men in hard hats taking down a lot of the memorabilia and beginning the process of remodeling the Hard Rock Hotel into the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, owned by billionaire Richard Branson of the Virgin Group. From what I heard when I asked the staff, they believed that the Pink Taco would not be part of the new hotel. However, there are Pink Taco locations in other parts of the country so you may try a Margarita there.

All that being said, the Margarita from the Pink Taco was pretty tasty, although nothing special. It was well-balanced with a nice tartness to it and good tequila flavor. I’d rate it as a 7.5, so if the Margaritas from the other locations are similar, I’d recommend trying one if you are there.

Heart Attack Grill – Las Vegas , NV

My next stop in Vegas where I tried a Margarita was the somewhat world famous Heart Attack Grill. I had never heard of it before, but apparently it is a Vegas icon located on the definitely world famous Fremont Street. My girlfriend and I just happened to stumble upon it while walking down Fremont Street and it was right about lunch time so we decided to check it out. The restaurant itself is very kitschy with an anti-establishment, counter-culture theme when it comes to the type of food they serve, which consists primarily of big fat burgers. Their main claim to fame is that if you do not finish your burger, one of the servers will spank you with a large paddle. And just in case you think the spankings are a gimmick, think twice. Let’s just say I was very glad I only ordered a single burger because that was more than enough for me. A few grown men thought it would be fun to get spanked and after the first swat their facial expressions changed – and they had two swats left to go!

Anyway, given the type of restaurant it is, I was not really expecting anything great in a Margarita from the Heart Attack Grill. As I figured, the drink was made with a Margarita mix but the good news was that the tequila was strong, the tequila had a decent taste, and the overall flavor of the Margarita was fairly good. It sort of reminded me of the type of Margarita one might get at a beach. And the cup was really funny! So I’d rate it a 6.5.

Overall, given the fun environment, I would definitely recommend the Heart Attack Grill if you are in Vegas and like big fat burgers (and maybe hard spankings in public)! I’ve included some additional pictures below.

Cabo Wabo Cantina – Las Vegas, NV

Yes, the pitcher was half-full because my girlfriend and I already had some!

I had never been to Las Vegas before so I was excited to see what I had been missing. And, of course, try some Margaritas while I was in town!

My first Margarita stop in Las Vegas was to Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina on the Strip. And of course, if one is in a Cabo Wabo Cantina then one must try the Cabo Wabo Margarita made with Cabo Wabo Tequila! My girlfriend and I ordered a pitcher so I was able to sample plenty enough for a good review!

The Cabo Wabo Margarita is well balanced and tasty. It is, however, definitely on the sweet side. Sweet enough for me that it knocks the rating just slightly. I give the Cabo Wabo Margarita a 7.5. Had it not been quite so sweet, I think the rating could have been higher if the other great flavors could have been a little more prominent. That being said, if you are in Las Vegas, make sure to stop by the Cabo Wabo Cantina and order a Cabo Wabo Margarita.

Bonefish Grill, Patrón’s Perfect Cucumber Margarita – St. Louis, MO

When it comes to variations on traditional Margaritas, my experience has been hit and miss. Some are good, some aren’t. When done poorly, the extra flavors can distort the drink so that it’s not really a Margarita anymore in my opinion. However, when done well the experience can be amazing. I was lucky enough to find such a Margarita at the Bonefish Grill in St. Louis, MO.

To start with, the Bonefish Grill is a really great restaurant. I’m not necessarily a big fan of seafood unless it is very fresh and well-prepared. Bonefish Grill excels at this. Plus they have a great bar and cocktail selection which includes a couple of different Margaritas. For this review I’ll be discussing the Patrón’s Perfect Cucumber Margarita.

The ingredients listed are: Patrón Silver, fresh lime and English cucumber, topped with a hint of St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, rimmed with salt and pepper. Certainly an interesting combination of ingredients so I was very curious to try it. As always I am cautiously optimistic about a non-traditional Margarita but knowing that I like St. Germain and that Patrón is a good tequila had me hopeful. I must say that the Patrón’s Perfect Cucumber Margarita from Bonefish Grill is one of the best Margarita variations I’ve ever had. Besides the fact that it is served in a very interesting slanted glass, the basic Margarita itself is excellent and the cucumber and St. Germain accentuate rather than overpower the classic ingredients. I don’t usually like salt on the rim, but the salt and pepper on this rim bring out the cucumber flavor nicely. It’s a bit on the sweet side, but I really like the Patrón’s Perfect Cucumber Margarita. So much so that I rate it a 9.

I would not hesitate ordering the Patrón’s Perfect Cucumber Margarita from Bonefish Grill. Next time I stop by there, I’ll try the Parker’s Margarita, named after the founder of the Bonefish Grill and apparently his favorite drink.

Twisted Tree Steakhouse – St. Louis, MO

The Twisted Tree Steakhouse is a popular place in St. Louis among those who are familiar with it. The food is great along with the service and atmosphere. On this particular night, I (not surprisingly) decided to try one of their Margaritas.

The first thing that I noticed about the Margarita was the way it was served. The bartender had put a small wooden skewer with a tiny olive through a lime wedge and placed it on top of the glass. I do not believe I had ever seen a Margarita served like this before. As for the Margarita itself, it had a nice flavor although slightly on the tart side. It was well-balanced and pleasant otherwise and I’d say was slightly above average for a Margarita, with my rating of a 7.5.

Gringo – St. Louis, MO

Gringo is a recently opened Mexican restaurant in downtown St. Louis. Of course, I had to try it at my first opportunity!

To start, the food at Gringo is excellent. They are not a traditional Mexican restaurant, but rather a little more upscale on the food and decor, while retaining a casual atmosphere. Similarly, their self-named Gringo Margarita is also excellent. It has a really good tequila flavor with a good balance of lime and sweet flavors. It is a little less sweet than many Margaritas which isn’t a bad thing at all. Overall this is a great Margarita and I highly recommend it. I rate it an 8.5.

El Nino – Fairview Heights, IL

El Nino is a small little Mexican restaurant in Fairview Heights, IL. I would have never really noticed it except that a group of us were recommended it by a native Mexican friend. Plus the name was really cool (and reminds me of the “El Nino” skit on Saturday Night Live by Chris Farley). So why not?

Of course I ordered a Margarita. I chose their house Margarita and it had a good citrus flavor. While it was a little on the sweet side, it was fairly balanced overall. Unfortunately I could tell they did not use real tequila, but rather a mixto like Jose Cuervo Gold or similar. That being said, it was a good, if average Margarita that I give a 6.5. And hey, they served it in a fun cactus-style glass!

Shogun Steakhouse and Sushi Bar – Fairview Heights, IL

If nothing else, the Margarita I had this day was very special because it was the day that the city of St. Louis celebrated the Stanley Cup Championship of the St. Louis Blues hockey team! My girlfriend and I had spent the day in downtown St. Louis for the celebration and ended up that evening for some sushi at Shogun Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. Of course, what better way to celebrate than with a Margarita?

If you haven’t read my earlier reviews where I had a Margarita along with sushi, you may be a bit surprised to find that I quite enjoy pairing a Margarita with sushi. But trust me, it works! Anyway, the Margarita from Shogun that night was good, but very strong! All the particular flavors of citrus, sweetness, saltiness, and tequila all came across really powerfully. While it was a good, bold Margarita, it may have come across a little too strong! I give it a 7.5, although if you enjoy a really bold flavor in your Margarita, it may rate higher for you.

Rio Grande MX Cocina- Fairview Heights, IL

A new Mexican restaurant named Rio Grande MX Cocina had recently opened up in our area. Of course, out of duty and devotion I ventured out to try this new location so that I could share my experience with all of you out there. It’s a rough life, but someone has got to do it!

Rio Grande presents as an average Mexican restaurant, although the decor is a little above the norm and adds to the atmosphere. The food is good, if fairly standard. They offer a large variety of flavored Margaritas, but not being a huge fan of flavored Margaritas, I ordred their “regular lime” variety. Not surprisingly, for a fairly average Mexican restaurant, the Margarita was also fairly average. It was good, but nothing special. So I give the Margaritas at Rio Grande a 7.