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Drink Sun Jun 27 2010

The Happy Margarita Summer Project 2010, Round 3: Cesar's

If you're going to emblazon "The Killer Margaritas" above your restaurant's entrance in hot pink and lime green fluorescent lights - and use as your URL - then you better serve up some seriously damn good margaritas. In my experience, it's truth in advertising at Cesar's on Clark bear Belmont. The Killer Margaritas have capped off or kicked off several memorable events in my nine years in Chicago, including the afternoon my husband and I ran into then-Gov. Blagojevich - or Rod, as my husband greeted him - on our way from Cesar's to Wrigley Field. But that's a story for another day; today, we focus on the margaritas.

My co-conspirators met me at Cesar's at around 6 p.m., and I had a case of the Mondays, even though it was already Tuesday going on Wednesday. So we decided to divide and conquer: Claire ordered the standard margarita, lime on the rocks with salt, and I chose frozen guava, no salt. That way, we'd each only drink one (albeit one jumbo, which is Cesar's medium, a hefty puppy at 26 ounces for $10.) Per our standard rules, we both tasted the regular margarita first, then the flavored; Claire made an unorthodox but understandable request to stir the standard margarita and resample, after which we compared the following notes:

Standard: If not killer, then very, very good. For me, Cesar's edged out current top contender Big Star, but Claire slightly prefers the smoky Big Star margarita. We both agreed it was better post-stir - less sweet and more balanced. Cesar's makes its own mix with real limes, so you get a clean citrus taste. I approved heartily of the even salt distribution and the slice of lime that garnished the rim, a pretty alternative to the usual lime wedge. Claire was ambivalent about the standard margarita's appearance, but she had firm opinions about the guava's look.

Guava: "It looks like a fleshy appendage!" she blurted, clearly put off by the color, which did make the tall drink look a lot like a fair-skinned arm. She disapproved of the "bubble gummy" aftertaste, but I kind of liked the tutti frutti taste. However, if I had a do-over, I would order like the gals at the next table, who mixed frozen lime with frozen raspberry.

A final word on Cesar's: They have excellent chips and salsa. The first basket is free, but you'll probably want two if you order jumbo margaritas - and trust us, it's worth the $2.50.


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