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Margarita Festival Comes to Catalano Square

Aug. 22, 2017
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This Friday, Aug. 25, from 5-8 p.m., the Shepherd Express presents its newest event, Margarita Festival. Held in the Third Ward’s Catalano Square, rain or shine, attendees age 21 and up can enjoy margarita samples from 15 local bars and restaurants. All participating establishments will work with tequila sponsor Brown & Forman’s Tequila Herradura (blanco-silver variety) as a base for their margaritas. Several additional food options will be on hand to make sure you’re not drinking on an empty stomach, and, if tequila isn’t your thing, try the special Mexican Lager brewed by Broken Bat Brewery just for this event.

As Shepherd Express Event Coordinator Rachel Repetti reminds us, “Margaritas are the most popular cocktail in the United States, and Milwaukee bars and restaurants make some of the best there are. No one has previously showcased everything our city has to offer, and I’m excited to give people the opportunity to get them all in one place. What better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a margarita in hand?” 

Margarita Contestants:

The Azteca: The Azteca began as a walk-up restaurant inside a gas station and has grown into a vibrant establishment at the heart of South Milwaukee. As the proprietors state on their website, “Azteca goes beyond being the representation of authentic Mexican cuisine. It has become the face and definition of our American Dream.” The restaurant features an expansive menu of traditional dishes and beverages with many vegetarian and kid-friendly options. Azteca also offers catering and great specials, including a weekday lunch buffet, Friday fish fry and fish tacos, and Sunday brunch buffet.

[Updated Aug. 28, 2017: The Shepherd would like to congratulate Azteca for winning the Margarita Festival competition!]

BelAir Cantina (also serving food): BelAir just keeps expanding—seven years after its original Water Street spot served its first famous taco special, it now has six locations, including one in Madison. It’s understandable why: welcoming ambiance, a tremendous tequila selection and some of the tastiest fusion dishes in town.

Botanas II Mexican Restaurant: The original bustling and beautifully mural-covered location was so popular, they had to open a second. All the usual Mexican staples are served here, but check out the seafood menu—the selections are more plentiful than most establishments’ and include shrimp fajitas, red snapper and caldo de pescado.

Buddha Lounge (also serving food): Buddha Lounge takes Asian fusion to the next level, both in the dishes they offer and the vibes they put forth. Walk on the wild side with Bo Luc Lac (“shaking beef”) on a date, enjoy a big bowl of phở with the folks, or enjoy sushi and Salsa dancing with friends on a Sunday.

Café Corazón Riverwest: This establishment serves the best black beans in town. No joke. There are many other fine qualities to recommend Corazón—gorgeous, tree-enclosed outdoor seating, fantastic drink menu, affordable and delicious lunch specials—but go for the beans, and learn all the other reasons this is an enduring Riverwest favorite for yourself. 

Club Charlies: A cozy and quirky bar just off of Catalano Square, Charlies serves up traditional pub fare, a respectable beer selection and lots of sports TV, along with more unexpected entertainments like Showtune Sunday Fundays.

Concoctions MKE: This mobile drink truck caters to summer festivals and parties. Offerings have fun names like Lava Flow, Mango Sunrise and Stormy Passion. Their mission? “To provide one-of-a-kind flavor combinations that are unique and look as good as they taste!” 

El Fogón: This establishment actually bills itself as a tequila bar, so you know they’re serious about margaritas. In addition to a broad range of Mexican food favorites, you’ll find an expansive margarita menu, including creative ones made with beer, chocolate, tamarind and even Redbull. 

Jalisco Mexican Restaurant: This restaurant has been satiating hungry visitors to the East North Avenue neighborhood for more than 30 years. Prices are very reasonable, seating is ample, service is swift and friendly, and the menu has a nice range. Try their Famous Burrito.

La Fuente Restaurant: One of Milwaukee’s most elegant Mexican establishments, the restaurant named for its trademark fountain offers lovely ambiance, deliciously authentic cuisine and margaritas striped with many colors and flavors.

Lucky Joe’s Alchemy & Eatery: This new American restaurant in Wauwatosa offers craft and classic cocktails, beer, wine and, of course, margaritas. Food is great for sharing, and there are lots of fun specials and themed nights like Speakeasy Saturday, Tiki Tuesday and Wings Wednesday. 

Margarita Paradise Mexican Restaurant: This gem of the Milwaukee Public Market has fantastic Mexican beverages (both alcoholic and non; the horchata is one of the best in town) and a delicious array of dishes. The tamales are lovingly wrapped and mouthwatering any time of day.

Riviera Maya Milwaukee: Kinnickinnic Avenue boasts a lot of great restaurants, but this is one you’ll want to come back to again and again. From its eye-catching artworks and fish tank to its delicious food and drinks, Riviera Maya is well suited to its upscale, artsy environs. 

Samano’s: A family business operating for more than 40 years out of the original 1894 Miller Brewery Tavern and Rooming House, this Cudahy restaurant offers a good selection of Mexican American favorites. To add a touch of fusion, on Fridays there’s a very popular Mexican Marinated Grilled Cod.

Tu Casa Mexican Restaurant & Bar (also serving food): With its charming building, expansive menu including Mexican breakfast offerings and endearing name (seriously, how fun is it to say “Karaoke at your house Sunday, Monday and Tuesday!”), Tu Casa hits the mark.

Food Vendors:

Tudo Sabor Brazil: Tudo Sabor Brazil offers dishes ranging from chicken stroganoff to Brazilian feijoada and from passion fruit mousse to flamed bananas. Food is sold in Milwaukee through farmers markets and direct sales on their Facebook page. Hosting an event? Check out their catering options; there are many delicious bite-sized options in addition to traditional entrées.

Pedros South American Food: A food cart emphasizing in traditional and fusion South American food made from scratch. Eco friendly, 100% gluten free.

Several other vendors will be present as well to further enrich your experience: Armory Quest, Everdry Waterproofing, Sherper’s and Wiener Winks.

Margarita Festival features musical entertainment from the steel drum band Caribbean Eclipse, with songs running from calypso classics to jazz standards. Likewise, Daync Studio will be on hand for a salsa dance performance at 6 p.m. and a lesson at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the margarita-tasting portion of the event are $20 and there is a limited supply. At the time the paper is going to press, there are only a few tickets left. Tickets are available at shepherdtickets.com. Interested in socializing but not drinking? Stop by the park for food and great music—no ticket needed!

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