Laws surrounding New York nightlife confounded us when we first arrived. Instead of being able to put a few songs in the jukebox and dance in the back of our favorite bars like we did in other towns we've lived in, we suddenly had to pay covers to throbbing, exhausting dance clubs that were anything but fun. We're still confused by when it's kosher to BYOB. And it's strangely difficult to find a place that serves actual Mexican food alongside margaritas, unless you count the wave of nuevo Latino places (which we won't, at least not until we visit Mojave on Ditmars). Astoria has no shortage of Mexican restaurants, but so few of them have liquor licenses that what seems to us to be a natural marriage of burritos and margaritas instead becomes a rare prize -- that prize being Las Margaritas.
Las Margaritas seems like the kind of place that towns with few to no actual Mexican residents -- say, Pierre, South Dakota -- would herald as an authentic Mexican restaurant. Flowing pitchers of margaritas, curtains resembling Mexican zarape blankets, the patrons largely devoid of Latin blood, even the name all form the idea of what a Mexican restaurant should be. But where the restaurants in those places fail -- the food -- Las Margaritas holds its own. Which is not to say that it's outstanding: It's not. But like Astoria's gyro joints, the quality of the neighborhood's Mexican food tends to be solid as a result of competition.
Nothing on the menu blew us away, but it was all eagerly devoured. The seafood quesadilla had a light tomato-based sauce that nicely tempered the briny meat. The simple mango-avocado salad, sprinkled with chili powder, was a refreshing antidote to the heavy enchiladas, burritos, and other standard Mexican fare that comprise the bulk of the menu.
We'd visited Luna de Juarez not long before Las Margaritas, and they seemed to be two sides of the same coin. They had similar menus, though Las Margaritas sticks closer to taqueria fare while Luna de Juarez attempts to break out into broader Mexican cuisine too. Luna de Juarez achieves intimacy through small attempts at elegance, while Las Margaritas gets there with dim lighting and an overall darker appeal. But both have a largely non-Latino clientele in a heavily Latino neighborhood, and both please.
Price: Not as cheap as other places, but not a rip-off; entrees between $9 and $18.
Will we go again? We've already made one repeat visit, and there could be more—pass the pitcher, please.