Frozen Strawberry Margarita

El Mariachi, 1934 Zumbehl Road, St. Charles; 636-946-7600.

At El Mariachi in St. Charles, Princess the Clown paints faces for free every Thursday night, with no age restrictions. Anyone dining and drinking at this suburban eatery can waltz up to her table and request a makeover, although we're going to have to test that assumption some other time. Yes, it's long been our dream to wear Peter Criss makeup while eating shrimp fajitas, but we've got a date tomorrow night and would be horrified to awaken with blemishes.

All the kids here — and there are a lot of them — are being painted by Princess. There's a tiny lioness, a few tigers, some random superheroes in the house. The clown twists balloons into funny shapes. She can even create a convincing rubber sculpture of a monkey climbing a banana tree.

Every day is a party at El Mariachi. How could it not be? Wednesday night is "Amigos Night," which means cheap margaritas, Mexican beer and domestics. Best? They've got happy-hour specials everyweekday, and where most places begin their happy hour at 5 p.m., El Mariachi's runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Parents: While your kids are at soccer practice, you can tie one on.

We've been sent out to St. Chuck by a guy named Johnny Wang, who has informed us that this is where the real Hispanics go for Mexican food. Note to selves: Wang is not a Hispanic surname, so how the hell would he know? Apparently, though, his girlfriend is Hispanic.

Anyway, he's trustworthy (he's an attorney, after all), so we joined the sea of red tail-lights headed west over the Blanchette Bridge. It would have been much easier to simply walk to Cherokee Street. But then we would have been at a loss the next time we wanted to get margarita-ed on a Thursday and then get our face painted.

"It's the perfect spring-break drink," exclaims our lovely companion. "I'll even take my shirt off later."

El Mariachi's frozen strawberry margaritas are spit out of machines and look like Slurpees — except that they're spiked with tequila and triple sec, which makes them taste pretty good. They come in three sizes: large, jumbo and holy shit. We went for the jumbo, but secretly wanted a holy shit.

We won't waste our time examining the drink's mouthfeel. You know exactly how it tastes. You've had one on vacation, or at Casa Gallardo, or a Mexican-themed fiesta. Exact same concoction, exact same brain-freeze if you drink it too fast.

Regrets? Absolutely not. The shrimp fajita was quite delicious. Did we seen any Hispanics? Other than the staff, who were delightful and seem to be making a killing out here, no. But who cares? Sometimes the journey is the destination, and as the full moon guided us back to the city from the dangerous, high-crime suburbs, we took comfort in the fact that St. Charlesians (St. Charlesites?) are getting some decent Mexican grub, and strong margaritas.

 
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