The month that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated is the perfect time to experience the three amigos of Mexican cuisine—margaritas, guacamole, and salsa.
Lolita’s seafood guacamole with garlic butter lives up to its especial name.
The origin of the margaritaremains a mystery. However, it’s no mystery that the margarita is one of the most popular adult beverages in the country. A variety of flavored margaritas are often found poolside, beachside, and, for the purposes of this article, tableside, with guacamole and salsa. We have answered the question of where to go for first-rate fiesta foods. All you have to answer is, “With or without salt?”
Walking through the wrought-iron gates of Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar (230 Mill St, Greenwich, CT 203-813-3555), you feel more like you are walking into a red-light district than into a Mexican restaurant. Though this Byram, Connecticut, neighborhood hotspot is relatively new, the décor is a little rough around the edges (in a good way, of course). The dim light from aged chandeliers and the antique mirrors that line the walls set the mood for a spicy evening.
Everything starts with not one but three of Lolita’s signature salsas: a fire-roasted tomato salsa, a chipotle salsa crema, and a tomatillo salsa are neatly lined up and brought to your table with salsa’s usual accompaniment—tortilla chips. Executive Chef Juan Reyes offers three varieties of guacamole. Highly recommended is the Guacamole Especial—and special it is, with lump crab and lobster plus chili-garlic butter poured over it ($16). Lolita’s prides itself on its recipes, and the Lolita margarita is no exception ($12). Fresh limes and grapefruits are used for every margarita; never—heavens, no—a mix. Drinks can be prepared tableside from a tequila cart in the summer.
Little Mexican Café (581 Main St, New Rochelle 914-636-3926) celebrates 20 years of sharing its authentic Mexican cuisine with the rest of Westchester. The guacamole is prepared from scratch at your table, which makes for a delightful performance to enjoy while sipping a signature Little Mexican Café margarita from your cactus-stemmed glass.
Speaking of cactus-stemmed glasses, La Heradurra (406 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck 914-630-2377) serves up a mean margarita. If a frozen margarita is what you desire, don’t look for a margarita machine. All the margaritas are blended fresh to order ($8.50). Though the salsa is fairly standard, the guacamole, prepared tableside in your choice of mild, medium, or picante, should be the landing place for your tortilla chip.
Looking for a game to watch but not in the mood for wings? If it’s spice you are craving, you’re sure to get it at Don Emilio at Lobo’s Café (57-59 King St, Chappaqua 914-238-2368). Take a seat at the bar and enjoy whichever sporting event is on the big screen and be sure to order the guacamole with a kick ($10.95). The guacamole is created from a hand-me-down recipe, and Chef Jose Ramirez keeps the preparation traditional by using a stone mortar and pestle. This seems to be his secret weapon for winning awards.
Somewhere over the basket of rainbow chips, Tomatillo (13 Cedar St, Dobbs Ferry 914-478-2300) has created a salsa and guacamole that feel like flavorful fireworks going off on the tongue. Credit the ultra-fresh and very local ingredients; much of its produce hails from Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills. Everything is made fresh daily including the aforementioned rainbow chips ($4.95).
During the warmer months, what’s more refreshing than sipping a sweet yet pleasantly sour margarita outdoors? You can fulfill this desire at Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant (2 Union St, Briarcliff Manor 914-944-4380). With a large patio in the front, the weekend mariachi band will bring the fiesta outside. There is plenty of room for a crowd. May we recommend one of its decorated specialty margaritas? Okay, pomegranate ($12).
Santa Fe (5 Main St, Tarrytown 914-332-4452) is where “mi casa es su casa.” This family-owned establishment creates a warm environment in what feels like owners Rick and Janice Dumas’s home. The margarita suggested by the bartender is one that is not listed on the menu. Referred to as “the Cadillac,” this top-shelf margarita certainly lives up to its name ($9) and is made with tequila, lime juice, sweet/sour mix, and Grand Marnier. The ingredients in the salsa bring pure euphoria to your mouth. There is a crunch from the onion and a pleasant brightness from the cilantro. The guacamole has a buttery sort of flavor that seems to linger well after the last bite is devoured ($7.95).
Sonora (179 Rectory St, Port Chester 914-933-0200) is a gem tucked away from Port Chester’s busy Westchester Avenue. Chef Rafael Palomino has managed to create everything right in his dining room, or, in this case, at the bar. Margaritas on the rocks are highly recommended to savor the flavor of the tequila ($11). The guacamole is served with warm tortilla chips ($10.95). If another round of drinks is to be ordered, make it another round of the guacamole as well.
Okay, so there’s no guac or salsa at Barcelona (18 W Putnam Ave, Greenwich, CT 203-983-6400), but who ever said Spaniards didn’t know how to make a good margarita? The bartender here knows how to concoct one heck of a good blood-orange margarita ($9), which seemingly hits every flavor sensor on the tongue. The sweet-and-sour zest from the orange and limejuice climax as you lick the coarse salt from your lips. The bar at Barcelona is the place to be after a long week at work. Try to arrive early in order to claim seats next to the windowed kitchen. And we’re in luck: the owners of Barcelona are expanding their tequila repertoire, thanks to their next endeavor scheduled for this summer, a tequila bar and taquería called Bar Taco (11 Willett Ave, Port Chester).
Harrison resident Hailee Moore is a professional cook by day and a freelance food and travel writer anytime in between. Margaritas are her guilty pleasure; she’ll drink hers on the rocks with salt, por favor.