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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Great Milwaukee Margaritas

belaire
BelAir Cantina
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Tastes in margaritas vary greatly. Some prefer tall bowl-like glasses and frozen fruit flavors, while others stick with the basics and want fresh lime juice, ice and tequila in a tumbler. Whichever type is your favorite, everyone can agree that margaritas are most fun to drink with friends in a place with a good vibe. The following restaurants and bars are some of the many in the Milwaukee area that serve up margaritas that please the masses as well as the aficionados.

BelAir Cantina
1935 N. Water St.
414-226-2245
belaircantina.com/milwaukee.html

The tequila selection here may be the most extensive in the area with more than 100 varieties to choose from. The basic margarita mix is of fresh lime juice with a dash of sugar syrup. This is not a large place and is especially crowded on Tuesdays and Thursdays when “mystery” tequila shots are just $2. The priciest tequilas, on the other hand, can run as high as $40 per shot. There are several margarita options and frozen ones in three flavors. It’s possible to purchase a private tequila bottle poured from a barrel of Herradura double reposado. Tasty stuff but maybe too good to be mixed with lime juice. (Jeff Beutner)

Botanas
816 S. Fifth St.
414-672-3755
botanasrestaurant.com

Botanas is one of the most popular local Mexican restaurants. The interior has a Mayan jungle theme and the main bar is at the heart of it all. While there are 19 tequilas, only some of these are used for margaritas. The premium margaritas still offer fine tequilas such as Tres Generaciones and Don Julio—no skimping here. Add Grand Marnier for a slight extra charge. Fruit margaritas are a specialty here with the usual strawberry and raspberry, as well as the more unusual watermelon, Midori, and mango with orange. Sit back and have a sip in this urban jungle setting. (J.B.)

El Beso
5030 S. 74th St., Greenfield
414-817-0362
elbesomke.com

El Fuego

909 W. Layton Ave.
414-455-3534
elfuegomke.com

El Beso and its older sister restaurant, El Fuego, offer Mexican fare and drinks in neighborhoods that are more suburban. The interiors are dramatic spaces, a Disneyfied vision of Mexico. Both have long bars and outdoor seating in warmer weather. The outdoor patio at El Fuego is especially inviting and features a second bar. El Fuego will customize a margarita with any one of its many available tequilas. The standard margarita offers nine additional flavor options. El Beso offers similar variety but one-ups El Beso with its black-and-blue margarita made with muddled blackberries. (J.B.)

Highland House
12741 N. Port Washington Road, Mequon
262-243-5844
highlandhouse.ws/site

For 30 years Highland House has been serving up delicious Tex-Mex-Caribbean food and drink, so they’ve had lots of time to perfect their margaritas. Nine flavors are on the menu, including lip-smacking peach, pomegranate, mango and a rotating flavor of the month. Upgrade to a premium margarita made with your choice of more than 25 premium tequilas, fresh lime juice and Cointreau, all served in a personal shaker. Happy hour specials are offered Monday-Friday, and Highway Robbery Monday means all margaritas are $2 off. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Jalapeño Loco
5067 S. Howell Ave.
414-483-8300

It could be easy to overlook Jalapeño Loco. This family-run restaurant is tucked away near Mitchell Field, but is well worth the trip—and you don’t have to take a plane to get there. The margaritas are strong and delicious. Traditional lime is a favorite, but fruity flavors like melon, banana and mango are fun too. Several premium tequila margaritas are featured on the menu. For a super smooth, tasty drink, try the Don Loco Royal, which is mixed with Don Julio Añejo tequila and Grand Marnier. (S.H.G.)

Jose’s Blue Sombrero
20371 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield
262-432-6667
josesbluesombrero.com

Jose’s Blue Sombrero boasts an amazingly large selection of margarita flavors. The list is made up of 10-15 flavors including everything from cranberry and cherry, to grape and passion fruit. The house specialty is the very pretty El Toronado—frozen sangria that has been swirled with a margarita. Visit during happy hour for $3 small margaritas and $4 larges: 3-6 p.m. (also the time to take advantage of a free taco bar) and again after 9 p.m. If margaritas aren’t your thing, Jose’s also makes killer tableside sangria where the ingredients are muddled before your eyes. Good stuff! (S.H.G.)

La Estacion
319 Williams St., Waukesha
262-521-1986
laestacionrestaurant.com


Housed in a former train depot, La Estacion is a unique place to take a margarita journey. Fourteen flavors of margarita are served here, some like lime and strawberry are expected, but passion fruit and guava trend to the exotic. La Estacion will even mix two flavors together, per customer request—perfect for those of two minds. Top shelf tequilas and fresh ingredients make for some truly spectacular drinks, whether blended or on the rocks. Happy hour specials (Monday-Thursday) include $3.50 house margaritas. (S.H.G.)

La Fuente
625 S. Fifth St., 414-271-8595
9155 W. Blue Mound Road, Wauwatosa, 414-771-9900
2423 Kossow Road, Waukesha, 262-717 9400
ilovelafuente.com

Great margaritas start with quality tequila. They feature creative, balanced flavors brought together through smooth blending, veteran craftsmanship and know-how. Not skimping on the tequila is a good touch, too. For all these regards, try La Fuente; 20 years on top and now at three locations. A rainbow of fruit flavors; blended, or on the rocks. Smooth pours and well-salted rims. Pitchers are the crowd pleaser. The comfortable atmosphere and accompanying comida are excelente también. Bring your friends. (Willy Thorn)

La Perla
734 S. Fifth St.
414-645-9888
laperlahot.com

For more than 17 years, La Perla has been a crowd favorite in Milwaukee. Its popularity is, at least in part, due to the excellent margaritas. Fruity and frozen or lime straight up, you’ll be sure to enjoy them. The Rainbow Margarita is a tasty standout, but be careful, they go down way too easily. Remember, one of the best things about La Perla is, after a round or two of margaritas, someone is bound to take a ride on the giant mechanical chili pepper. Yee-haw! (S.H.G.)

Poco Loco Cantina
4134 W. River Lane, Brown Deer
414-355-9550
pocolococantina.com

“Brown Deer’s little slice of old Mexico” should be the tagline for Poco Loco Cantina. A one-time coffee shop, the building has quite effectively been transformed into a vintage 1920s Mexican cantina. The seating is counter-only, or at least until the patio thaws out for the season. Margaritas are taken seriously here, traditional lime, tequila, on the rocks or straight up. What sets the margaritas apart at Poco Loco is the brand and age of tequila used. Tequila mellows with aging, and pleasantly mellow is how you will feel after a visit to Poco Loco. (S.H.G.)

Rio West Cantina
2730 N. Humboldt Blvd.
414-562-5540
riowestcantina.com

Sometimes simplicity is perfection. Rio West Cantina has a simply perfect basic lime margarita on the rocks. No fancy umbrellas or swizzle sticks, just clean and simple. They do offer fresh fruit, mango, or tropical flavors, but it’s pretty hard to top the classic lime. Plus, with more than 70 different tequilas, Rio West has one of the biggest selections around. Margarita lovers who boast a developed tequila palate will truly appreciate the extensive list to choose from. (S.H.G.)

Terra Restaurant and Bar
624 W. National Ave.
414-763-7309
terrarestaurantmilwaukee.com

Ah, margaritas—they’re sweet yet tangy, a refreshing treat on a hot day, tasty enough to wash down Mexican food, and potent enough to get a buzz going in only one glass. Located in the heart of the Mexican restaurant district, Terra Restaurant and Bar has a margarita selection that rivals any other. Whether you want it blended, on the rocks, salted, sugared, top shelf or rail, they have the concoction for you. Their specialty flavors include Blue Moon, Fresca, Lime, Piña Colada and a variety of fruit flavors. Or, get it all in one glass with the Rainbow Margarita, a vibrantly multihued blend of Blue Curacao, strawberry, raspberry and lime. (Danielle Stevens)
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