At Maracas in Fort Lauderdale, That Frozen Concoction That Helps Us Hang On Comes Extra Strong
Mondays suck. And arbitrarily, I have decided that the best cure for a shitty Monday is something tall and green. Of course, if the Incredible Hulk, Statue of Liberty, and Kermit the Frog (on significant steroids) are not readily available, you might have to make do with a strong, savory, well-salted margarita. What better way to wash away those start-of-the-week woes and instantly reek so badly of tequila that your mother smells you from across town and calls to cry about your "drinking problem"?
Since I hadn't been wasted away again in my own personal margarita-town anytime recently, I picked up a trio of buddies and pushed them into a booth at Maracas Mexican Bar and Grill, a dazzling recent addition to the Fort Lauderdale boozin' scene lineup.
Ambiance: An acid trip mixed with the ejaculate of a rainbow is the basic gist of Maracas' décor. Yellow, orange, and pink paper lanterns, along with burro and chili-shaped piebald piñatas, hang from the pink and yellow ceilings; cotton-candy-colored curtains hang from the windows, and rhinestone animal shapes sparkle from walls that are a kaleidoscope of festive shades. There are mirrors everywhere, and, near the entrance, is a giant, multicolored sculpted sombrero. Music videos flash across flat screens, and the DJ, who has positioned his table by the classy, U-shaped bar, bobs in time with a Britney Spears remix.
The bar, much like the dining room and patio area, is packed full of people — mostly couples and very few women. In the middle of the space behind the bar, bottles of tequila have been arranged, shrine-style, on a small table. Just brushing by the bar, I caught a pungent whiff of that frozen concoction that helps me hang on (Jimmy Buffett lyrics, anyone?). I made a silent promise to return for tequila and triple-sec very shortly.
Margaritas: My friends and I claimed a spot in the dining area, at a booth directly in front of a mirror and a giant rhinestone lizard, and below a trellis laced with fake ivy and plastic jalapeño ornaments. I made a dive for the drink menu, which advertised in clear Spanglish a "fiesta every night" at Maracas and listed a handful of margarita specialty flavors. While debating whether to settle on a strawberry, raspberry, mango, prickly pear, or passion fruit margarita, I was temporarily distracted by the tequila lineup. Maracas' selection boasts four different types of Mexican tequila, though I should point out that the menu misspelled the word Mexican.
Since a server was nowhere in sight, I made a break through the colorful corridors and wound up at the bar. "What's going on here tonight?" I called to the pretty-boy bartender.
"Two-dollar margarita night," he said between mixing drinks and seeking out ingredients. "They're very strong too."
Sold. For mere petty cash, I procured a frozen, raspberry-flavored margarita for myself and a traditional lime-on-the-rocks one for my buddy, Beard. My glass had an orange plastic mermaid floating in it; Beard's had a green burro hanging from the side. I could also smell the sharp scent of tequila emanating through all that radiant red syrup. This was going to be a good night.
Patrons: I left the two margaritas with Beard, trusting him not to drink mine, and approached the cute, arm-in-arm couple I'd seen sitting at the bar. Daniel had tattooed arms, a strong jaw, and a good ol' boy kind of demeanor; Martia was petite and blond with long, French-manicured fingernails. I asked them what they thought of the place.
"Cheap margaritas," Martia commented, gesturing at the two lime on-the-rocks margaritas on the bar in front of them. "Strong too. Margaritas like this would cost $10 or $12 somewhere else."
Daniel started bragging about the burrito he ordered that was the size of his head. But then Martia chimed in: "To be honest, I didn't realize there would be so many ... boys ... here. I mean, we're not in Wilton Manors."
I chose not to mention that Mondays at Maracas are dubbed "Boys' Night South of the Border," and that the place is owned by the same good folks who run the fabulously infamous Lips.
"Well, what do ya'll do?" I asked.
"I'm in town only temporarily. I work in steel and travel all over the country," Daniel said. "I never stay in one place very long."
"If he had a wife, she would be very unhappy," Martia said.
"Well, good thing I'm not proposing tonight," Daniel said, poking an elbow at his gal-pal and bursting into laughter. Martia laughed good-naturedly too, but her grip on his forearm loosened slightly.
"I'm from California," Martia said. "There's great Mexican food out there. The Mexicans out there, they wear cowboy hats and boots as their everyday clothes."
"If you wear cowboy boots around here, someone might make an assumption about your sexual orientation," I said mildly. I know this firsthand because I once took a black-leather-boot-wearing Texan to Wilton Manors. He lasted being straight all of about five seconds.
Mondays Suck: I snuck back to check on my friends, but not really; really for a mouthful of my margarita. I found it significantly emptier and rolled my eyes at Beard, who had removed the plastic mermaid from my drink and was making it hump the tiny green burro from his drink. Complete with sound effects. I took the drink back to the bar with me.
Upon my arrival, the dark-haired lady bartender demanded everyone "be happy today" and threw two Mardi-Gras bead necklaces at me.
At that point, Edward, the barrel-chested Maracas manager, appeared from nowhere. I dropped the beads over my head and cut to the chase.
"So, do you have a Monday night margarita special because Mondays suck?" I asked.
"Yeah, that too. Monday is our busiest night," he hesitated. "Honestly, though? It's mostly to compete with La Bamba. Their Monday night special pulls a big Monday night crowd, but they don't have the DJ or the kind of entertainment we do." He smiled in a way that implied he thought Maracas might be beating La Bamba in the battle for Monday. I appreciated his honesty; crowds will come as long as there's booze in the blender.
Edward continued that Maracas makes an easy transition to dance club. "Also," he said, "Wednesdays is Dinner With the Dogs."
"You can bring your dog to dinner on the patio on Wednesdays," he clarified. They even offer a menu for dogs, and the proceeds from it go to a charity that helps terminally ill people care for their animals.
I thought about bringing my unruly greyhound to Dinner With the Dogs. She always could appreciate a good Milkbone-flavored margarita. Speaking of — I sucked again at my empty drink. And then retreated back to my friends' table to say a lot of alcohol-induced things I would (maybe) regret later.
So there you have it. There is no better place to obtain cheap margaritas, have a color-induced seizure, speak bad Spanglish, surreptitiously reference Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" throughout an entire column, and watch your companion force plastic ornaments to have sex. I promise you, it made me forget that it was Monday. And some people claim that there's a margarita to blame, but I know it's my own damned fault.
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