Arriba, arriba! National Margarita Day and National Tortilla Chip Day have come and gone (February 22 and 24, respectively), but let’s face it–those fauxlidays were just there to keep us going until Cinco de Mayo. And now that May 5 (aka everyone’s favorite excuse to consume an excessive amount of margaritas and tortilla chips) is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find out where to indulge around town. Read on for some of my favorites spots to get the tasty power couple.
Mas Malo – www.malorestaurant.com
Just like the original in Silver Lake, this Downtown LA big boy is always ready to party. So what better place to officially celebrate margaritas and tortilla chips? You can tingle your tastebuds with my favorite Pinata Smash margarita ($8) made with chili, cilantro and pineapple juice then soak it all up with those famous but sadly not complimentary chewy chips and so-ridiculously-spicy-but-you-just-can’t-stop-eating-it habanero crema salsa. Go during the daily Hora Feliz (happy hour) 3pm-7pm and get your marg for $5.
Red O – www.redorestaurant.com
Melrose’s hyped hub of Mexican fare and Hollywood flair is more style than substance, but you can’t go wrong with an order of the chips and guacamole chased with an uber-fresh margarita. Try the La Dama Margarita ($12) made with homemade mango grenadine, fresh lime juice, pomegranate liqueur and pomegranate seeds. Delicioso!
Ortega 120 – www.ortega120.com
This festive hangout for modern Mex cuisine and 120 different tequilas (Ortega 120, get it?) is where to go for one of the best margs in town + giant homemade tortilla chips and salsa. Go for all-night happy hour on Mondays or Taco & Tequila Tuesday 5pm-close when there’s $2 tacos, a different “Taco of the Week,” and a special tequila cocktail.
Loteria Grill – www.loteriagrill.com
Loteria Grill is like a brighter Malo minus the Eastside/Downtown hipster factor. In other words, it’s casual, easy, and consistently good regardless of which location you visit. The bar is stocked with plenty of tequila choices for your margarita while those crisp and thin (and free and bottomless) chips & salsa are there to ensure you soak it all up.
Velvet Margarita – www.velvetmargarita.com
This fun Cahuenga mainstay serves up everything from classic margaritas ($8) and fruity ‘ritas ($10, pomegranate, strawberry or mango) to the Platinum Velvet Margarita ($30) made with Don Julio 1942, Cointreau, and a blend of fresh fruit. Even better are the free bottomless tortilla chips that come with a tower of three different salsas, including tasty hot bean dip.
Casa Sanchez – www.casa-sanchez.com
Mariachis, margaritas and Mexican feasting are what you’ll get at this homey Westside hacienda. Whether you’re out on the patio or seated in front of the stage, order the Perfect Cadillac ($13) or Millionaire Margarita ($19) made with Don Julio 1942, Grand Marnier 100-year Centenaire, and lime. Bonus: the tortilla chips come with spicy salsa and free guacamole.
Rivera – www.riverarestaurant.com
And the award for the Weirdest Margarita goes to … this temple to pan-Latin gastronomy and arguably the best, most unusual cocktails in the city. Grab a seat in the sleek bar lounge and treat yourself to the Donaji (that’s not salt on the rim, it’s crushed grasshopper) or any other type of margarita you crave (strawberry and basil?) that can be paired with Chef Sedlar’s own interpretation of chips and guacamole: handmade, almost-too-pretty-to-eat flower (not flour) tortillas and avocado butter.
Gilbert’s El Indio – www.gilbertselindio.com
This cash-only Mexican joint (with no ATM in sight) is where to get some pretty killer chips and hit-the-spot margaritas. If you really want to get your drink on (or are with a group), the blended or on-the-rocks pitchers are the way to go with each priced under $14. The complimentary chips, which have just the right amount of crispiness and oily sheen, come with a little dish of pickled carrots and onions as well as a spicy salsa that, despite looking like and having the consistency of marinara sauce, is actually quite good.
Chipotle Mexican Grill – www.chipotle.com
Yes, it’s a chain, but I truly love the tortilla chips here. (They’re made fresh every day with a little lime and kosher salt–soo good.) But did you know this fast-food joint has a great no-fuss margarita? If you’re at one of the select locations where the drink is on the menu, you’re in for a treat. Made with Sauza White tequila, triple sec and citrus juice, the recession-proof drink is just $3.75, proving that you can have a ball at a chain.
Las Perlas – www.213nightlife.com
Never mind the chips. They don’t really exist here. This Downtown LA cantina is all about the agave fix. Check out the chalkboard or hand-scrawled cardboard menus for just some of the hundreds of tequila and mezcal options at your disposal. All manner of margarita, from a spicy version with jalapeno to a smoky concoction to a refreshing number with cucumber can be had for $12 (or thereabouts). Too steep? Stop by on a Monday for all-night happy hour.
Tortilla Jo’s – www.facebook.com/tortillajos
Don’t hold its name and Disney location against it. This place is part of the Patina Group and they know from good food. And drinks. So if you find yourself in Orange County and in search of a good ‘rita, grab yourself a basket of Tortilla Jo’s handmade chips and an Asomritas, hand-shaken tableside with Asombroso el Platino tequila, fresh lime juice and simple syrup ($12.95). You can also choose from over 100 other blanco, reposado, añejo or mezcal tequilas to create your own bespoke margarita.