In the House Margarita at Pappasito's, a Bottom-Shelf Tequila Rises to the Top
Mugs are for beer, not margaritas.
Photos by John Kiely
This was supposed to be another Margarita Afternoon, but a family member received a Pappas gift certificate and wanted to finally see what the famous fajitas were all about. Pappasito's also has reputable margaritas, so it was worth the Saturday night wait at the packed and boisterous South Loop location.
I skipped over the premium margaritas on the menu, as the Original Margarita caught my eye. It's made with Agavales tequila, premium triple sec and a mix of fresh juices. Agavales Tequila, distributed by Houston-based Mexcor, is a low-priced tequila with a simple, quintessential tequila taste.
Agavales 100% Agave Blanco doesn't have the roasted vegetal undertones of an expensive tequila -- for sipping -- but the tequila mixes extremely well with triple sec, fresh lime juice and even a little limeade concentrate to make a surprisingly good margarita. In fact, you'll find it as the go-to tequila in many well-known house margaritas in the Houston area.
I ordered the small margarita and it arrived, on the rocks, in a salt-rimmed beer mug. The Original Margarita is superb, slightly tart (the way I prefer them), with an unusual use of lemon and lime juices. It's a winner, with no artificial tastes.
The Price Bouncer
The mug in which the drink came was deceptively tall, and didn't hold a lot of margarita. My first thought was that the $7.95 price was steep, but then I realized something else was at play. Pappasito's Original Margaritas are excellent, but it's also a family restaurant. If the small margaritas were sold for $5, I would have ordered a lot more of them, and I'll guess that many other customers would do the same. Better to cut us off at the wallet, rather than with a bouncer.
Chips and Salsa
The tostada chips are great, but the red salsa, despite the strong presence of chiles, was bland and watery. It's hard enough to finesse a tortilla chip with salsa from the bowl to the mouth, but it was impossible this night. Fortunately the green salsa was tart and exceptional. We asked the server to remove the red and bring us more green.
Pappasito's fajitas are famous for a reason. They're smokily delicious, cooked with onions and a big green chile, without the strips of green bell pepper that can be a detraction. My dining companion on that evening doesn't like the taste of smoke, but she added a little green sauce, and was thrilled with the result.
Say hello to the new tequila king of house margaritas.
The Mexican rice was perfect, but the beans were awful. Somebody put too much clove into this batch, and it tasted like an attempt to make beans into dessert.
One margarita was enough to be happy, but I'll go for the large next time, and there's going to be a next time, even without a gift certificate.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.