Photos by John Kiely Is the last sip of this margarita as good as the first one?
The margarita is Houston's iconic restaurant cocktail. In this series -- Margarita Afternoon -- we'll take a close look at popular local versions of the drink and give you some great drinks.
Despite the dreadful location below a tangle of freeway ramps where the West Loop meets Highway 290, Tia Maria's Cantina & Mexican Restaurant is always crowded for lunch, and invariably packed for dinner. It's not just the simple equation of large portions of good Mexican food at a reasonable price that brings the customers in such large numbers.
No, the hallmark of most popular Mexican restaurants is a festive atmosphere. It feels like a holiday when you walk into Tia Maria's, and even as I took an inconspicuous booth in a corner, a large group of office workers gathered at a long table next to me for lunch, to animatedly celebrate, I don't know, Thursday afternoon.
The other big draw is Tia Maria's house margarita, and that was the reason I was there. To test a margarita, I usually ask for a shaken version, as a palate-numbing slush of a frozen margarita can be used to cover up all manner of shortcuts, such as bad sour mix, industrial-grade tequila and chemical-tasting triple sec.