Margaritas Restaurant

Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Getaway Guide to Cinco de Mayo Here and There

May 02, 2018 - 12:04 pm
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By Jay Lloyd

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Every eye in the bar spun like a pinwheel to the woman standing in the swinging doors of the cantina. She was tall and lean - not thin - lean! Her face was framed by a shock of flaming red hair. She was a rare sight in this Mexican border town of Matamoros, where the Rio Grande was not much wider than Broad Street. The year was 1935 and she had walked in from Brownsville, Texas. The bartender was love struck. She stepped up to the mahogany and he started mixing. It was a drink that captured her fiery look. He asked her name. "Maggie," she said. And so, the "Margarita" was born. With Cinco de Mayo on the horizon, more Margaritas will be mixed than any other drink on the planet. Many are still being poured where Maggie's was mixed.

CANTINA LAS DOS REPUBLICAS 

The cantina is still owned by the family that launched the Margarita. But it now caters to visitors who cross the border for the flavor of Mexico during beach vacations at nearby South Padre Island. Noshing on tacos, sipping Negra Modelo or a bit of tequila, it's easy to lose yourself to a fantasy of adventure in Old Mexico. The strolling guitar guy is a clue to why Americans are so fond of celebrating Cinco de Mayo. It's fun.

The Cantina
Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

NOW THE WARNING

I don't want to bust the balloon, but many parts of Mexico have been declared dangerous for travel, the area around Matamoros among them. Conditions have improved for daytime visits to the heart of the city. But before traveling to Mexico, always check the U.S. State Department Advisory web page for current risk assessment. Use common sense and caution. But there are some areas in Mexico that continue to welcome visitors in relative safety.

Matamoras
Roger Wiltshire

CANCUN AND COZUMEL

My daughter just returned from Cozumel, an island off the Yucatan Peninsula near Cancun. Scuba diving and charter fishing boats were awash in Americans. A convenient ferry ride connected the restaurants and nightlife of Cancun. From there a short bus ride revealed the dramatic ancient Mayan ruins. For a Mexican getaway and a Margarita toast to Cinco de Mayo, Cozumel and Cancun still fill the bill.

Cozumel Beach
Kathryn Lloyd

CELEBRATE LOCAL

Let's face it, few of us are jetting off, south of the border to celebrate a Mexican victory over the French Foreign Legion in 1862. But celebrate we do at bars and eateries near home. We do it in two ways. Some seek the authentic flavors of Mexico. Others are looking for a fun Happy Hour, discounted Coronas and finger food. Here are my choices for one of each.

TAQUERIA MICHOACANA 301 E. Main Street, Norristown, PA 19401

There's no web page for the colorful restaurant in the heart of Norristown, just blocks from the KYW Suburban Bureau. It's been a great spot to brush up on Spanish beyond "cerveza". The menu is crowded with Mexican flavors from the spicy seafood soup to the popular Chiles Rellenos. My wife Mary, who lived in El Paso finds them among the best in the region. To enjoy the range of dishes, share some of the mixed platters with combinations of meats, seafood and wraps topped with avocado and accompanied by rich frijoles. And yes. They do have the stuff that Happy Hour is made of.

Taqueria Michoacan Enchiladas
Mary Lloyd

MARGARITAS 

Okay. I know it's a chain and the servers are your neighbors college age kids. But the bars and outdoors decks are framed by vibrant paintings and unique sculptures. There's perfect finger food for American tastes starting at salsa with a tang to scoop the nachos.  Then meander through the Happy Hour tacos, fajitas - even roasted corn on the cob. They mix a mean Margarita and those servers are bright, conversational and ready to steer an exuberant Cinco de Mayo.

Margarita
Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

As for the birth of the Matamoras Margarita. I like to think that's the way it happened.