The third-largest city in Texas, Dallas is a gastronomic hub of the South, famous for its elegant, sophisticated—but decidedly Texan—restos and its two-pronged knack for Southern fare and Tex-Mex cuisine. Most famous of all though is the city’s frozen margaritas. Visit Dallas just relaunched the Margarita Mile after a pandemic hiatus, a self-guided food and drink trail of eateries and bars that sling both classic and modern takes on the iconic cocktail. I, in the company of a few tequila-loving journalists, tackled a handful of spots on the trail. You know, for science. Here’s how it went.
I Sipped My Way Along Dallas’s Margarita Mile—Here’s Why You Should, Too
What Is the Margarita Mile?
Though there’s no shortage of barbecue-fueled, Stetson-hat-wearing fun to have in the widespread city, Visit Dallas’s Margarita Mile alone is enough reason to pull on your cowboy boots and head to the airport. Dallas lays its claim as the official home of the frozen margarita, since the frozen margarita machine (and consequently the drink) was invented there back in 1971 by a local restauranteur—more on him later.
Relaunched in time for National Margarita Day on February 22, the Margarita Mile is a self-guided drink tour that directs you to 24 of the city’s finest Tex-Mex, Latin, barbecue and high-end restos for next-level margaritas. Tourists and locals alike are encouraged to make an account on the Margarita Mile site so they can check in on their phones as they visit different spots on the map (check-ins are confirmed by location, so no cheating!). The more places you check into, the more prizes you can score, the grand prize being an entry in a drawing to win a two-night trip to Dallas.
With my roomiest joggers on and antacids in my purse, I set out to check into as many spots on the itinerary as possible, getting more and more charmed by the city with every sip.
Stop 1: Terry Black’s
Like any northerner who just stepped foot in the South should, we made a beeline to the closest barbecue joint seconds after checking into the Kimpton Pittman Hotel in Deep Ellum. Terry Black’s is famous for its Central Texas barbecue. The state is renowned for its fall-apart-tender brisket, and Black’s didn’t disappoint. It was ridiculously soft and juicy, thanks to being smoked low and slow for hours on end. But to our surprise, the massive beef rib stole the show, largely due to its melt-in-your-mouth fattiness that made its texture impossibly smooth and silky.
Besides pairing all the meats (we also ordered pork ribs and house-made cheddar-jalapeño sausage) with sides like mac and cheese, potato salad, pickled cucumbers and pickled whole jalapeños, we also washed it down with a Black’s Margarita, our first Margarita Mile check-in of the trip. Complete with a red salt rim, this frozen marg’s components are a secret, so we debated its ingredients (blood orange? grape juice? charcoal powder?) until the end of the meal.
Stop 2: Beto & Son
Next, it was off to Beto & Son for chips, dips (salsa is a big deal in Dallas; nearly every restaurant serves one dish per person instead of one communal bowl) and our second check-in, the Liquid Nitrogen Margarita. Created by father-son team Chefs Beto and Julian Rodarte, this cocktail is truly ingenious.
A team of servers came to our table with a few carts, piled high with margarita components (tequila reposado, lime juice, agave and orange liqueur) and smoking pitchers of liquid nitrogen. As Julian mixed our drinks, he explained the science behind the method. “Liquid nitrogen is -320°F, alcohol freezes at -150°F…whether it’s water in the [frozen margarita machine] or a blender, there’s some kind of dilution,” he said. “Because we’re able to freeze the alcohol itself, we don’t have to add any water…the molecule of alcohol is also much finer than that of water, so it freezes like sorbet.”
A frozen margarita that doesn’t turn watery as you drink it? Believe it, besties. The texture was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; so silky, so smooth, like what we imagine a frozen cloud would feel like. Did I mention they top each marg with house-made passionfruit caviar?
Stop 3: Mariano’s Hacienda
After a wine-soaked dinner, a good night’s rest, a stroll through the up-and-coming Bishop Arts District and a hat making workshop at Flea Style, we hit the Mile again. When you walk into Mariano’s, which has been a Dallas staple for more than 50 years, you’ll see deer heads on the walls, a tortilla making station with open windows for peering in and a massive Zapata-esque painting of Mariano Martinez, the inventor of the frozen margarita machine, dressed as a Mexican revolutionary.
To our surprise and delight, Martinez was seated at our table as his signature margaritas, The Mariano, were brought to us, along with beefy queso dip, house-made soft tortillas and tableside guac. Despite his claim to fame, his signature drink is served on the rocks and made with reposado tequila, fresh lime juice and orange liqueur. What sets it apart is the striking sunburst lime garnish, which Martinez told us was actually a daisy. (Did you know “margarita” means daisy in Spanish?) After snapping pics with the legend himself, we headed to our next stop.
Stop 4: Gloria’s Latin Cuisine
With 23 locations across Texas, Gloria’s is a cornerstone of the state’s culinary scene. What started as a small Salvadorian eatery in Oak Cliff back in 1986 has now become a chain of elegant restaurants serving vibrant contemporary Latin food. To balance out all that tequila, we kicked off our meal with aguachile, which is basically ceviche with cucumber and peppers in the marinade. All I have to say about Gloria’s version, made with shrimp, octopus and red chiles, is wow. We followed up with pork-and-cheese pupusas and Salvadorian-style tamales, filled with pulled chicken and wrapped in banana leaves.
You only need one margarita per spot to earn a check-in on the Mile, but we had three at Gloria’s. (What can I say, we’re overachievers.) We started with La Tuna, a classic marg spiked with orange juice and prickly pear purée. Next, we tried their award-winning frozen margarita, made with Monte Alban Reposado. Finally, we downed the sweet, smoky La Dueña, made with mezcal, tamarind and chipotle pineapple syrup. At this point, I was wondering how I could possibly make stomach space for more food and bev…
Stop 5: Las Palmas
…that is, until I saw what Las Palmas had to offer. Apart from a moody, dare we say sexy, atmosphere that conjures visions of old-school Cuban restaurants adorned with neon signs and dark wood, Las Palmas also boasts *killer* beverages and food. To soak up all the liquor from Gloria’s, we ordered bacon-wrapped shrimp with salsa tamarindo, hickory-grilled ribs with charro beans and fries and the absolute best chili con queso blanco I’ve ever had (and we had a ton of queso on this trip).
The cocktail menu has plenty of fancy options that match the ambiance, but in honor of the Margarita Mile, I went with the house frozen margarita (which gets its unique flavor from Mexican vanilla) finished with a swirl of red sangria. Equal parts bright, fruity and refreshing, it was just the appetizer for lime-topped shots of tequila that we shared with our handsome server. If that’s not Southern hospitality, I don’t know what is.
Stop 6: Happiest Hour
Next, we went to this casually clubby spot for bar food and, you guessed it, more drinks. Known for its Mi Familia Margarita, a super-sized cocktail that comes with multiple straws for sharing, Happiest Hour is home to the largest patio bar and lounge in Dallas, as well as 12,000 square feet of party space, an expansive outdoor garden and rooftop deck. We shared chicken wings and tenders, fried pickles and a ginormous pretzel, which I washed down with a The Boys Are Back. I’d define it as a boozy strawberry lemonade. We also shared a giant pitcher of Spill the Tea, made with lemon vodka, citrus juices and amaro.
That was supposed to be the last stop for the night, but a few of us kept the drinks flowing by walking to Louie Louie’s Piano Bar for live music. With beers and tequila sodas in hand, we ended the evening by tossing song requests onto the stage (which they actually played, BTW!) and singing along to every ditty the dueling pianists played.
Stop 7: Tejas
I am a firm believer in the hair of the dog’s power. Luckily, we wasted no time getting our drink on at yet another Margarita Mile stop the following morning. Tejas is a millennial pink dream of a Tex-Mex restaurant in Bishop Arts. I nursed a *delicious* cucumber margarita, finished with Topo Chico in traditional Texas fashion, with a “brunch” spread of carne asada fries, white queso, fresh guac and the resto’s famous mini tacos, filled with picadillo beef and poblano chicken. Before leaving, we polished off mini shot glasses of their frozen margarita and frozen paloma, which gave us the strength to
live drink another day.
Tips for Conquering the Dallas Margarita Mile
- Figure out transportation: Whether you have a DD in your group, call Ubers or hire a driver, you’ll need a car to get from one neighborhood to the next, since the Mile’s spots are spread out all over the city. If you’d prefer to walk, see the online map to plan your itinerary ahead.
- Come prepared: We’re talking antacids, stretchy pants and a water bottle that’s easy to tote around. You’ll only get so far if you’re dehydrated and burpy, no?
- Pace yourself: Personally, I think we made it through so many back-to-back cocktails because we were 1) drinking water and 2) nibbling on something at each restaurant. Even if it’s just a few tortilla chips (with queso, obvs), you’ll be thankful to have something other than tequila in your stomach. I’d suggest spending at least one hour at each spot, so you have time to nosh without feeling the need to chug to get your money’s worth.
Other Must-Visit Dallas Restaurants
Although these spots aren’t featured on the Margarita Mile, any foodie would be happy to chow down at the following restos:
Best for Girls’ Night: Lexy’s
Pink décor, Parisian-inspired marble and a Champagne vending machine—need we say more? Order something bubbly for the table and dig into brisket-avocado croquettes, caramelized Brussels sprouts and half-tempura, half-roasted whole red snapper.
Best for a Nightcap: Elm & Good
Located in the Kimpton Pittman Hotel where we stayed, Elm & Good mixes a mean old fashioned. Head there on select nights in February for Uncle Nearest whiskey tastings and live music in honor of Black History Month.
Most Unique: Isla & Co.
Forget about the Blooming Onions you’ve devoured in the past—this restaurant will teach you a thing or two about real-deal Australian food (for instance, they take their coffee and cocktails very seriously). Don’t miss the pork sausage rolls with sweet chili sauce and the mushroom toast with poached egg and crème fraîche.
Best for Brunch: The Finch
Come here for brûléed banana French toast, mimosas and a shockingly rejuvenating cappuccino. We also loved the blue crab dib, the Italian sausage and egg pizza and the stunning oyster bar, decked out with rose petals for Valentine’s Day.
Most Insta-Worthy: Catbird
Views, views, views. Make sure your phone is charged to snap pics on the ever-so-chic rooftop between drinks and apps. (We were particularly fond of the Old Jalisco cocktail, the East Coast oysters and the Tejano Cubano sliders.)
Best for Pre-Dinner Drinks: Rodeo Bar
Located in The Adolphus, a historic Dallas hotel that’s been around since 1912, Rodeo Bar is an ’80s-themed watering hole that boasts throwback tunes, an old-school jukebox and the most refreshing Ranch Water in the city.
Best Tasting Menu: Rye
We’ll never run out of good things to say about this eclectic spot in Lower Greenville. You could order a la carte…but the chef’s tasting is an exquisite way to end a vacation or celebrate a special occasion. Our favorite dishes include the molasses-glazed nopales, the Duroc pork belly lollipops and the Chicago Style dessert, a masterpiece of popcorn crème brûlée, cheddar fritters, caramel popcorn, cheddar sponge cake and caramel sauce. As for cocktails, we loved the Blurred Limes, made with dill-infused tequila, cucumber, aloe, lime and celery bitters.
Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.