Battle of the Dishes: Cinco de Margarita Edition

Happy Cinco, everyone! In honor of the Mexican holiday that most Mexicans don't actually celebrate, we're battling the most gringo-friendly item on any Mexican restaurant menu: fajitas. You can't help but love a dish that arrives on your table sizzling.

For this week's battle, we pitted one margarita-inspired restaurant against another. After all, isn't that what Cinco de Mayo is really about? 

In One Corner: Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville
6751 N Sunset Blvd. in Glendale

Jimmy Buffett took the sizzle outta this plate.

Margaritaville is a Parrothead's dream come true -- an entire restaurant crammed with kitschy visual references to Buffett's songs!! There's a massive boat. Plenty of parrots. And a prop plane flying above, a cheeky reference to "Jamaica Mistaica," which Buffett penned after his seaplane was mistaken for a drug-smuggling craft.

I wonder how many Parrotheads there are in Phoenix, because this place is always packed. We're talking hour-long waits on some weekends. Now, maybe it's because there's a game going on at the stadium next door, or maybe it's the over-the-top touristy vibe that draws em' in. Or it could be the killer happy hour specials. You decide.

Margaritaville's menu takes a stab at playful with themed items like the "Cheeseburger in Paradise," but sadly we had to pass that one up in favor of the chicken and steak fajitas.

Sail away now, before spending $17 on fajitas.
​Mistaica #1: No sizzle. Seriously, they arrived on a plate. Not a skillet. A plate! When I order fajitas I expect everyone to drool in jealousy at my crackling, aromatic dish. The spectacle is part of the joy. Sadly, we just got a tiny dish of meat with peppers and onions that didn't even qualify as steamy.

Mistaica #2: Gristle. Jimmy Buffett's meat was a little fatty, especially given the hefty $17 price tag. 

Mistaica #3: Turn up the heat, please! "Is there actually any spice in this?" questioned my dining companion. "It tastes a little bland." The menu claimed the meat was marinated, but the beef didn't retain any savory seasonings. The chicken held a little more of the flavor, but when combined with the lettuce, sour cream and cheese, it was equally lacking.

The good news is, fajitas are such a staple that it's hard to screw them up to the point of inedibility. The tortillas, vegetables and condiments were at least fresh, though the white rice was bland. I admit the island escapist surroundings were so uplifting that I plan to go back and try that Cheeseburger in Paradise...washed down with a Margarita or three.

In the Other Corner: 3 Margaritas
1717 South Rural Rd. in Tempe

A steaming pile of... delicious meat and veggies.

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