Margaritas! The tequila-based Mexican cocktail is the perfect libation for when the weather turns warm. (Or when you wish it was warm.)
There’s nothing worse than ordering a margarita and watching the bartender pour a box of neon green sour mix over cheap well liquor. That kind of sticky-sweet drink isn’t just a far cry from the real thing, it’s practically a hangover in a glass.
Thankfully, it’s easier now than ever before to find a drink that’s not only freshly made, (with real lime juice, and a tequila that won’t strip varnish) but offers great-tasting variations on the classic drink.
Here are ten places in the Cleveland area that are serving up imaginative and delicious takes on the classic margarita.
Cleveland Chop, 824 West St. Clair Ave, Cleveland
You might not think “steakhouse” when you think of where to go for margaritas, but the Cleveland Chop’s namesake concoction makes theirs with a roasted pineapple tequila, house-made sour and the Spanish Licor 43. The result is a smoky sweetness that’s like a vacation in a glass. At only 5 bucks during happy hour, (M-F 4 pm – 7 pm), you can afford this mental get-away.
Spicy Mango Margarita
El Carnicero, 16918 Detroit Ave, Cleveland
For a sweet heat, look no further than this margarita made with a puree of mango and “rooster claw” Thai chilis. If that’s not enough kick for you, it’s rimmed with a mix of dehydrated lime and red chile. You can also find it at El Carnicero’s sibling restaurant, Momocho. Visit them on a “Tequila Tuesday”, and all craft margaritas are 7 dollars.
La Taqueria, 5115 Wilson Mills Road, Richmond Heights
Okay, so this isn’t too far removed from the traditional margarita, but it’s made with something La Taqueria calls the “famous golden recipe”. We don’t know what’s in it, but we imagine it’s some form of pure sunshine that’s been converted to liquid form. If you’re hungry for food and local history, La Taqueria is connected to La Fiesta’s kitchen, a Cleveland favorite since 1952.
Lopez, 2196 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights
Lopez allows you to build the margarita of your dreams with their “build your own margarita” offering. You choose traditional, golden or “skinny” tequila and flavor of your choice. If you’re in a daring mood, go for the cactus juice. It’s a traditional South-of-the-border taste that doesn’t get the spotlight much in the frozen North. Complete the experience with a rim that you can make sweet, salty or spicy.
Luxe Kitchen, 6605 Detroit Ave, Cleveland
You can’t get much more refreshing than Luxe’s blend of fresh grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange juice that goes into each glass of their margaritas. Finished off with some botanical elderflower liqueur, brunch-lovers would be well-advised to substitute the normal mimosa for this citrus concoction.
Nuevo Cleveland, 1000 East 9th St, Cleveland
Located just down the pier from the Rock Hall, Nuevo has an amazing view of Lake Erie, as well as an amazing variety of margaritas. For a change of pace, why not order up a Lychee-Rose? A blend of Sauvecito Blanco tequila, Cointreau, house lychee syrup, lime juice and rose water, it’s a fragrant and delicate taste that goes well with gazing at the sunset over the water. The black lime sea salt rim makes for a good Instagram shot as well.
Si Senor, 16800 Lorain Ave, Cleveland / 7729 Broadview Road, Seven Hills / 25048 Sperry Drive, Westlake
Si Senor has three locations, which means you have no excuse to not try one of their well-loved margaritas in a classic Mexican restaurant setting. Are they the only game in town offering the “Coronarita”, a big ol’ traditional margarita with a bottle of Corona beer tipped into the glass? No. Are they one of the best? Absolutely. They offer several weekly specials on margaritas, but it’s worth noting that Thursdays offer 12oz margs for only $2.99.
Taco Tonto’s, 13321 Madison Ave, Lakewood / 123 Franklin Ave, Kent
There are plenty of places to get your margarita fix, but Taco Tonto’s stands out with its creative drink variations, and plenty of offerings for Vegans and Vegetarians, as well as omnivores. Highly recommended is the blackberry margarita, with fresh muddled blackberries and sugar rim. Very Summer picnic, if the picnic focused on booze.
Taqueria Junction, 8154 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls
Short name, big flavor. That’s how you can describe the Mexi, a zesty flavor rush of a margarita made with Terremoto jalapeno lime tequila, fresh cilantro and jalapenos. While it may look like a garden in a glass, the taste is a balance of smooth and spice that will leave you satisfied.
Zocalo, 2071 East 4th Street, Cleveland
Nestled in the East 4th strip of restaurants, Zocalo’s take on the “smooth and spicy” balance drink is the cucumber pepper margarita. Blending together a house-infused jalapeno tequila with triple sec and fresh cucumber, this is a great choice for patio-sitting and people-watching on the streets of the city.