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Fort Worth margaritas: 10 to sip with Jimmy Buffett

Posted 9:47am on Thursday, Jun. 12, 2014

Before Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett had one Top 40 hit, the pretty and pensive Come Monday. Not exactly the sort of laid-back drinking anthem that casual Buffett listeners know him for.

But after Margaritaville was released in 1977, Buffett became a household name, and the song, well, it became much more than a tequila-soaked tale of tattoos, tourists and regret.

The Margaritaville name can now be found on restaurants and a satellite radio station, casinos and all manner of clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops and a gourmet food line. (Try the hummus!) But more than a multimillion-dollar enterprise and a symbol of Buffett’s mainstream mega-success, Margaritaville is a state of mind — a peaceful place where questionable choices and squandered relationships can all be forgotten with a few swigs of that frozen concoction that helps you hang on.

While it may not be Buffett’s best song, Margaritaville’s simple story of escapism connected like few other songs ever have.

In fact, Margaritaville has its Texas connections, too.

Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band had been touring the Lone Star State and enjoying margaritas at Mexican restaurants before he returned to his home base of Key West to write the song — an ode to both the sea-breeziness of South Florida and the powerful potion that, over the years, has become the unofficial cocktail of Texas.

Practically every Mexican, Tex-Mex or Southwestern-themed restaurant now offers at least several margaritas on its menu. Frozen, on the rocks, with salt, without, with premium tequila or just humble Jose Cuervo, the margarita makes its presence known all over North Texas.

So, as we prepare for a visit from the Mayor of Margaritaville — Buffett will be in concert June 19 at Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In and then at Frisco’s Toyota Stadium on June 21 — we decided to start tasting away, looking for 10 places we’d take Jimmy in Fort Worth if we could to enjoy a delicious cocktail and a Buffett-friendly vibe.

Now, you might say trying to select 10 margaritas in an area filled with great ones might sound a little crazy. But if we weren’t crazy, we’d all go insane. So, cheers to Jimmy and the almighty margarita.

Chimy’s

More than most places in Fort Worth, Chimy’s evokes the spirit of Margaritaville — the beach-shack atmosphere, a no-frills, “gutbusting” menu, and a lengthy list of margaritas. It also offers happy hour prices all day Monday, which is when we rolled into Chimy’s to test-drive the Cadillac, the most popular of the premium margaritas. (There’s also a Benz, Ferrari, Porsche and Lambo, all with assorted top-shelf tequilas.) The Cadillac ($9) is made with Cazadores Reposado tequila, Cointreau Noir liqueur and fresh lime juice, and much like its namesake, it is exceedingly smooth and classy. Served on the rocks in a big schooner, the Cadillac also packs a lot of natural flavor and horsepower. That’s why Chimy’s limits customers to two.

This was among the best pure margaritas we tried in our tasting adventures. It wasn’t overly sweet and didn’t muddle the margarita flavors by adding a lot of extra ingredients, and midway through the drink the tequila began to work its magic. We ordered a frozen house mini-marg for $2 just to try it, but that tart number didn’t really compare to the Cadillac. We also loved the college-dive feel at Chimy’s. The cozy patio is perfect for flip-flops and tank tops (watch out for pop tops!). And the Marfa Room, an extra party space, will host a Parrothead party June 19 before Buffett’s show at the Coyote Drive-In. Jimmy and Chimy’s seem like a marriage made in Margaritaville heaven. 1053 Foch St., Fort Worth. 817-348-8888; chimys.com.

Joe T. Garcia’s

Joe T’s is always near the top of any Fort Worth margarita list. And while fancier margaritas may have come along over the years, few of them can compare to the basic drink at Joe T.’s, which is about as unpretentious as they come: just tequila, triple sec and lime juice. “They’re nothing fancy,” Joe T’s special events manager Jody Lancarte told the Star-Telegram in 2013. “Just simple, quality ingredients.” Lancarte added that if Joe T’s made any radical changes to its drinks or small menu, “we would hear about it big time.”

Of course, sharing a pitcher on the enormous, hacienda-style patio (or rather, series of patios) adds to the flavor — and on really crowded nights, you can share a pitcher while standing in line to get in. It often helps break the ice with people around you, and creates that vacation-like feel that Margaritaville is all about. Remember: cash and checks only at Joe T’s; if you forget, an ATM is on-site. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356; joets.com.

Woodshed Smokehouse

Although Fort Worth has a couple of lakeside hangouts, Tim Love’s popular Trinity River restaurant is the best water-side spot, even if the Trinity isn’t exactly the Gulf of Mexico. Woodshed has that great backyard feel, and we took advantage of it on a recent Monday that featured some unseasonably temperate weather to revisit the margarita menu. Love is serious about his tequila — the Herradura Reposado tequila used in Woodshed’s signature margaritas is custom-made for him — and the margaritas we sampled were among the best we had on this journey.

The Colonial Rita ($14; made with Herradura Reposado tequila, Grand Marnier and lime juice) didn’t mess around with its tequila flavor, which was potent from the first sip, but the lime stood up to the tequila’s punch. The Cadillac ($12; Herradura Reposado, fresh fruit and orange liqueur) had a pleasing orange color, and although it tasted more fruity than the Colonial, it also carried quite a kick. Neither drink had the smoky flavor we associate with a lot of Woodshed offerings; guess we’ll have to return and try the Smokey Rita for that one. 3201 Riverfront Drive, Fort Worth. 817-877-4545; www.woodshedsmokehouse.com.

Reata

The popular downtown Fort Worth restaurant offers a variety of margaritas to go along with its upscale twist on Texas cuisine. A few of them are pretty pricey — you’d have to actually be Jimmy Buffett to be able to afford the Millionaire Margarita (Sauza Tres Generaciones tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice) at $24.95, or the Billionaire Margarita (Don Julio 1942 anejo tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice) for $49.95. But Reata has plenty of margs that are relatively simple and satisfying, too.

We liked the watermelon margarita, made with Sauza Gold and triple sec and served on the rocks. At $8.95 in a tall glass, it seemed like a bargain. Pale pink in color, it had a distinct but not overly sweet watermelon flavor that was very refreshing on a sticky June day. The azul margarita ($9.95) looked cool, with its electric-blue color, but the Patron Silver and Cointreau were a little heavy-handed. So we suggest sipping the watermelon margarita on Reata’s rooftop patio this summer. It’ll make you feel like a Millionaire. 310 Houston St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009; www.reata.net.

Blue Mesa Grill

Speaking of blue margaritas, one of the most popular drinks at Blue Mesa’s happy hour is the Classic Blue ($7), a neon-colored concoction that looks like it could light your way through a dark room. The drink, which gets its color from Blue Curacao liqueur (used in place of the more standard triple sec), is available on the rocks or frozen; we went for rocks, on the theory that we’d feel less like we were drinking a Slurpee (which is sort of a frozen-margarita inspiration). It looks like it’ll be cloyingly sweet, but the Classic Blue actually has a pretty good lime-tequila flavor with just enough tartness.

We also tried the top-shelf fresh fruit drink of the month ($9), in this case a peach-blueberry margarita made with Julio Cesar Chavez blanco tequila, muddled fresh blueberries and peach puree. Not for purists, perhaps, but it has proven so popular that our server told us it will be around for a few months after June. The Classic Blue is made with well tequila, but if you want to be ostentatious, order it with one of the “extra ultra-premium” tequilas from Blue Mesa’s extensive list. Various DFW locations; sampled at 1600 S. University Drive, Fort Worth. 817-332-6372; bluemesagrill.com.

Yucatan Taco Stand

The popular Latin fusion restaurant on Magnolia Avenue is also a tequila bar, with more than 75 premium tequilas and an inventive selection of margaritas. We were intrigued by the frozen mango margarita, but our server said the bar was out of mango puree when we were there for a recent Thursday happy hour, so we tried the pineapple-cinnamon marg ($9). And we’re glad we did. Served in a smallish funnel-shaped glass, this delicate and delicious cocktail is made with Corzo Silver tequila, Cointreau, Monin cinnamon syrup, pineapple juice and fresh lime juice. No rocks for this subtly sweet elixir, which is served shaken and comes with a nice froth and a dusting of cinnamon on top. Add a pineapple wedge, and you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation, which is, after all, the point of drinking a margarita on a Thursday afternoon, right? We think Jimmy would approve of the laid-back patio, too, which overlooks Magnolia. 909 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-924-8646; http://yucatantacostand.com.

Benito’s

This traditional Mexican restaurant has been serving authentic dishes and potent margaritas along Magnolia Avenue for 33 years — way before Magnolia was cool. The food is a definite draw; we love the silky ceviche, rich mole and creamy refried beans. But so are the no-frills margaritas. Benito’s offers two sizes ($4.95 and $7.95), and we recommend the large, frozen variety because, well, at $7.95 for an icy schooner, it’s a bargain compared with what you get at most places these days.

And one will definitely transport you to a Margaritaville state of mind. The drink’s neon-green color is hypnotic, and so is its lime-heavy flavor. We added sugar to the rim to cut the tartness, and though we swore we wouldn’t finish the entire fish bowl of frozen goodness, we did — brain freezes be damned. Benito’s earns extra Buffett points for a parrot piñata hanging from the ceiling. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-332-8633; benitosmexican.com.

La Familia

La Familia was West 7th before West 7th was cool, actually starting in an old McDonald’s location. It moved to Foch Street in 2006 and has held its own against increased competition — a point toward Buffett-ness. So is the friendliness of owner Al Cavazos, who manages to shake the hand of every customer who walks through the door (if he misses you when you walk in, he’ll shake your hand before you leave). La Familia is also the home of the Turner ’rita, a frozen margarita with a bottle of beer (in our case, Dos Equis) turned over inside and two limes, sporting a flaming, Everclear-drenched sugar cube. (Flaming sugar cubes accompany most drinks here, and La Familia also offers flaming queso — this place likes fire.)

Named for its inventor, Turner Bettis, the Turner ’rita is a tricky drink — you kinda have to sip the frozen margarita at the right rate before lifting the bottle to add the beer, and you have to be careful to avoid spillage. But we liked the way the lime-tequila flavors of the margarita morphed into the more michelada -style flavors of beer and lime. 841 Foch St., Fort Worth. 817-870-2002; www.lafamilia-fw.com.

Mi Cocina

To be honest, we’re not sure what Jimmy Buffett would think of Dallas-based chain Mi Cocina’s most popular drink, the Mambo Taxi ($8), a mash-up of a frozen margarita made with Sauza Blanco tequila and Mi Cocina’s house-made sangria. It’s flavorful, but the tequila and especially lime flavors get a little lost when all that sangria joins in (the stand-alone sangria, by the way, is pretty dynamite). But we’re guessing that Buffett would approve of all that booze in the blender that renders the frozen concoction, which is also available at sister restaurant Taco Diner. And it comes in variations such as Mambo Limousine ($10, made with Chambord black raspberry liqueur) and Mambo #5 ($10, with a float of frozen Midori).

Traditionalists might want to go with the “Perfect ‘Handmade’ Margarita,” a $12 drink made with Patron Silver tequila and Patron Citronge liqueur. Multiple area locations; sampled at Mi Cocina Alliance Town Center, 9369 Rain Lily Trail, Fort Worth. 817-750-6426; www.micocinarestaurants.com.

3 Parrots Taco Shop

Parrotheads might dig the informality of this small, locally based chain, which made headlines a few years back when Fuzzy’s Taco Shop sued 3 Parrots owner Randy Broyles, saying he copied the Fuzzy’s concept and recipes. A state district judge dismissed the allegations against Broyles, whose restaurant goes kinda crazy with the parrot/beach/surf motif — you order at a counter with a thatched roof, the menu is printed on a surfboard hanging on the wall, and the tabletops are festooned with colorful drawings of the parrot-mascot trio along with other tropical and/or sea life, all of which are featured on a mural that goes throughout the restaurant, even into the restrooms.

The margaritas, rocks as well as frozen, come from machines, and the frozen strawberry one we ordered (we were told it was probably the most popular) had decent tequila flavor, but we couldn’t detect much strawberry or lime. But, hey, it’s $5 for a 24-ounce schooner. Hard to complain about that. 3 Parrots has two area locations — one in Benbrook, not far from Benbrook Lake, and the other, somewhat appropriately, on Beach Street. Sampled at 6650 N. Beach St., Fort Worth. 817-788-8226; www.3parrots.com.

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