As we grapple with the new normal, it’s only natural to look for silver linings — wherever they might be found. Some of us have become a lot more familiar with “personal space” and “me time” while gaining greater appreciations for concepts like community and global unity.
And many now have an abundance of “quality time” — to virtually reconnect with friends and family, reboot shelved projects, walk or cycle, or maybe unplug from the madness and read a good old-fashioned book. While these side effects are likely to be among the most memorable, and least-horrible, takeaways of the current crisis, we’d be remiss to ignore an anomaly facilitated by a waiver that lets Texas restaurants to sell booze with take-out and delivery orders.
Yes, we’re talking about margaritas to go.
As outlined by Gov. Greg Abbott, the waiver offers “enhanced delivery options during this temporary period of social distancing.” While one could argue San Antonians are increasingly appreciative of our unique culinary landscape, we don’t exactly need a special occasion to raise a glass, even if it’s made out of plastic. Local imbibers aren’t too proud to rock a disposable cup, and many have fantasized about a time — albeit under different circumstances — when getting a marg out the door didn’t require an “iced tea” to go and under-the-table sleight of hand.
To survey the boozy angle of the Alamo City’s fleeting curbside culture, we sampled 10 take-out margaritas. A few things to keep in mind: we maintained social-distancing protocols and spaced out our visits, and we obtained a snack at every establishment we visited — it’s the law. More than a few margarita mainstays — including La Fogata and Rosarios — were also temporarily closed at press time. What’s more, our budget was beyond tight, so we favored spots offering individual margaritas. Rather than a hyper-critical “review” of margaritas to go, which seems unfair given the circumstances, the idea was to highlight the options while reminding readers of how sorely San Antonio’s service industry is hurting right now.
Anything we can safely do to support small businesses right now won’t go unnoticed. For those who find pick-up or delivery too risky, there are other ways to support your favorite establishments and their staffs — including but not limited to purchasing gift cards and donating to crowd-funded relief endeavors such as San Antonio Tip Jar.
An Alamo Height institution since 1997, Paloma Blanca puts an upscale spin on Mexican classics and takes margaritas seriously. From a menu that includes eight margarita options — including two named after its upper-crust ’hood — we opted for the most affordable, the basic house marg ($8.50). Available frozen or on the rocks with $2 flavor add-ins (from mango to a shot of red wine), the standard struck a winning balance of sweet, tart and strong — the tequila and fresh-squeezed lime juice were prevalent enough to cut through the triple sec and sweet-and-sour. Delivered curbside to a waiting area behind the restaurant, the frozen we ordered truly came to life when poured out of its white paper coffee cup and into a salted glass back home. 5800 Broadway, (210) 822-6151, palomablanca.net.
A service-industry fave thanks in part to its barebones vibe and late-night hours, Sanchos has risen to the unfortunate occasion with mix-at-home packages like the Quart-antine Margarita Kit ($18.99) and the Apocalypto Margarita Kit ($28.99), along with individual 12 oz. margaritas ($4.75). Although the frozen mix is fairly standard, it maintains its icy composure for a remarkably long time — and the ability to add as much or as little of your airplane-size Jose Cuervo bottle puts you in the pilot’s seat. 628 Jackson St., (210) 320-1840, sanchosmx.com.
Beloved for its elevated take on Mexican cuisine, lush patio and potent margaritas, Soluna is a scene unto itself. Helmed by La Fogata founder Jesse Calvillo, the Alamo Heights destination is keeping busy in the “Stay Home, Work Safe” era by offering curbside to-go and delivery of signature dishes along with traditional margaritas and chispas — super-dry, booze-forward, hand-shaken margaritas on the rocks. Pushing the envelope on curbside delivery, we showed up on bicycles to pick up a $12 chispa (along with a half order of nachos to make it legal) — all of which went down quickly and smoothly in the parking lot. 7959 Broadway, (210) 930-8070, solunasa.com.
Say what you will about Torchy’s sliding into the Alamo City, but their consistently busy parking lots suggest some here have made fast friends with the Austin empire and its self-professed “damn good” tacos. Not all locations were offering “pre-mixed, individual margaritas to go” at press time, so we reluctantly opted for a $40 “At-Home Margarita Kit,” entailing a 375 ml. bottle of Lunazul reposado tequila, a shaker of house-made sweet and sour, limes and salt. Billed as ingredients for “approximately six margaritas,” the kit’s ratio could use a recalculation, as there was barely enough mix for three margaritas — and we dig a heavy pour. Multiple locations, torchystacos.com.
Not long after we got the green light on this project, we called the Taco Cabana flagship on Hildebrand to suss out their margaritas to go — only to learn that nearly every San Antonio location was out of tequila. Not only did this confirm that we were on to something, it made it even more important to revisit TC’s margaritas. Two days later, the eagle landed, and we scooped up a $2 frozen, which paired nicely with bean and cheese tacos in the backyard. Like others out there, TC’s is a mix-at-home affair that comes with an airplane-size bottle of tequila. However, it was surprisingly satisfying and balanced with a wallet-friendly price tag to match. Multiple locations, tacocabana.com.
La Fonda on Main
While there are multiple La Fondas in town, the age-old La Fonda on Main is undeniably the original, as it’s been serving up Tex-Mex favorites since 1932. Now owned by Cappy and Suzy Lawton, La Fonda has temporarily consolidated with its Alamo Heights sibling Cappy’s. While the menu is essentially a pared-down version of Cappy’s fare, $8 margaritas — made with fresh lime juice, tequila and triple sec — are up for grabs in one of the more unassuming packages we encountered. Sealed in a plastic bag labeled with “margarita!” in Sharpie, the concoction tasted fresh, strong and tangy — and it even fared well in the freezer overnight. 5011 Broadway, (210) 733-0621, lafondaonmain.com.
Home of the rightfully intimidating and allegedly word-famous “Monster Kong Nachos,” Chacho’s has won a loyal following with its supersize approach. Something of a stoner-friendly underdog, the small Texas chain is still serving up all-day breakfast and “sloppy” burritos around the clock. Also available are its curiously strong, lime-forward frozen margaritas ($6.99) that easily stand up to more expensive options. Multiple locations, chachos.com.
El Jarro de Arturo
Favored by locals in the know since 1975, El Jarro de Arturo is among the more original eateries in the Embassy Oaks area. Tucked into a busy shopping center, the restaurant is pushing mix-at-home kits — their $45 package yields 3.5 servings — but thankfully also offering individual pours. Delivered curbside with a smile, our house marg on the rocks ($9) was refreshing and not overly sweet. It only got better when we added an extra splash of tequila back home. 13421 San Pedro Ave., (210) 494-5084, eljarro.com.
Established in 1949, Jacala bills itself as the “oldest originally owned Mexican restaurant in San Antonio.” Housed in a former grocery store in Monticello Park, the colorful and casual haunt is loved for its old-school vibes and award-winning enchiladas. Shuttled out to our car by a cheery woman seemingly unfazed by the light rain, our budget frozen ($2.99) was an incredibly smooth sip and had a bright, natural flavor. What perhaps stood out most here was the accompanying snack — a simple order of bean and cheese nachos that were perfectly toasty and melty straight out the box. 606 West Ave., (210) 732-5222, jacala.com.
No such roundup would be complete without a visit to the Market Square icon Mi Tierra. Like others, the Cortez family’s 24/7 landmark is bundling its booze offerings into packs intended for groups (or seasoned boozehounds). Combining a substantial amount of mix, a 375 ml. bottle of Cazadores reposado tequila and four lemons, Mi Tierra’s $20 Margarita Pack was far from our favorite, as the mix tasted overly sweet and slightly artificial. The included lemons — along with several limes we added — helped tone down the sweetness, and the tequila was plentiful enough for a few straight-up shots. Easily more remarkable than the kit was seeing how Mi Tierra has bridged gaps by transforming into a neighborhood mercado. When we arrived, groceries were being loaded into the back seat of a car from a shopping cart. And inside — where we were instructed to retrieve our order — shelves were stocked with eggs, milk, bread and paper towels while employees packed up household staples for pick-up. 218 Produce Row, (210) 239-9215, mitierracafe.com.
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