UPDATE: Since this was published, Agave Azul has temporarily closed its downtown location, and Lazaranda has become Cinco Tacos Cocina & Tequila.
There are margaritas to sip with your Tex-Mex, and margaritas to get you buzzed. There are margaritas made from tequila and lime, and not much else.
And then there are the margaritas we're exploring here. Fruity margaritas. Foodie margaritas. Margaritas born in the mixology age, that go beyond the basic cocktail with the addition of kitchen ingredients like cilantro leaves and pineapple wedges and slices of jalapeño so multidimensionally satisfying, they're almost a meal in themselves.
Though the downtown expansion of this Carrollton favorite Mexican restaurant from Zotico Reyes didn't take, the original still has one of the best and broadest margarita selections around. At Agave Azul, the bartenders squeeze fresh lime juice for every margarita, even for its basic house drink. Its exotic flavors extend from tamarind to a chipotle margarita, with just a hint of smoke. Among its myriad fruit margaritas is one made with pureed cantaloupe, like a smoothie spiked with tequila.
High-end Mexican restaurant from chef Abraham Salum includes a menu of nearly a dozen margaritas, all of which contain exotic fruits and flavor combos. But the savvy drinker goes for the tamarind, featuring a dose of tamarind puree that adds a sweet-sour raisin-y pucker.
At his Texana restaurant, chef Stephan Pyles re-creates the prickly pear margarita from his legendary '90s restaurant Star Canyon, with a molecular-gastronomy twist. Now this blend of tequila, prickly pear puree, lime and candied jalapeño is made tableside with liquid nitrogen, smoky vapor and much distracting scraping in a stainless steel bowl, for which they charge $18 (up $2 since 2012). It's still one of the city's best margaritas, with its interplay of sweet and puckery and a velvety soft frozen texture.
Mexican mini-chain is the margarita king, with eight exotic fruit-flavored frozens, such as pomegranate and guanabana, plus nine on the rocks with various muddled ingredients. The signature is the ginger-jalapeño, and it's a foodie dream. They use tequila in which they've marinated fresh ginger and lemongrass, add lime juice and agave nectar, then muddle jalapeño slices and cilantro leaves. It's an unexpected combination that's pleasingly well-rounded, with a spice level that's warm, not hot.
TNT Tacos and Tequila
That casual Mexican restaurant TNT, which recently opened in the Quadrangle, would have stellar margaritas should come as no surprise. Its older sibling, Southwestern chain Blue Mesa Grill, blazed the local tequila trail, including its signature top-shelf margarita served in a shaker. TNT takes tequila to new heights with tequila flights and with a margarita lineup that boasts unusual fruits such as blueberries and peaches. One standout is the orange noir, a citrusy take on the margarita with lime juice and muddled oranges left in the drink so you can scoop up the pulp.
Well-rated Mexican restaurant in downtown Dallas serves not only as a practical outpost where you can grab a $2.50 taco, but also as a place with a notable selection of drinks, including stand-out margaritas. They favor pineapple, which features prominently in the signature Wild Rita, with a thick slice of roasted pineapple propped on the glass, and in the exotic avocado margarita, with pineapple, jalapeño and avocado that adds both creamy body and a cooling presence.
This Oak Cliff mom-and-pop serves some of the most elegant Mexican food in town, and it has a small but well considered menu of cocktails to match. If you're talking the best drink, it has to be the Mesa horchata, an adult version of the classic rice drink infused with cinnamon and vanilla rum. But if you're talking margaritas, the spicy margarita offers a real kick, thanks to tequila infused with both serrano and habanero peppers, with a subtle yet decisive dose rendered as only a chef could.
Yucatan Taco Stand
Latest branch of this small fast-casual upscale taco chain just opened on Greenville Avenue. The service style and atmosphere may be fast casual but don't be fooled; there's a list of "artistanal" cocktails too. We'll let them off the hook for the spelling because we're still tingling from the jalapeño cucumber margarita. This is a common pairing in the margarita world, but few deliver the sneaky sizzle that Yucatan does. The drink starts out cucumber-cool, then lights a fire in your mouth that slowly dims. Cool-hot, cool-hot.
The food at this Addison Mexican restaurant specializing in unique seafood is a cut above, and the drink lineup is no slouch either, with exotic martinis and coladas along with the margaritas. The cucumber mint margarita is an enticing drink, loaded with muddled cucumber slices and fresh mint leaves that give it a mojito-like flair. It's heavy on the simple syrup and therefore rather sweet, but a chile-dusted rim adds some zing, and the restaurant's choice of chipped ice makes it all go down easy.
El Fenix's la-dee-da sibling has a chef in the kitchen (Nico Sanchez) and a zip in the cocktails. What has become its signature drink is the avocado margarita, combining avocado with tequila, lime and pineapple juice, garnished with a chunk of pineapple. The avocado is less forward than you might expect; this drink is about surprise and balance.