Almost immediately after stepping into Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant in Livingston, the décor and smells make customers feel as if they’ve stepped into an authentic Mexican cantina.
The newest entry in the Margarita’s chain, located off the Route 10 Circle at 372 W. Mount Pleasant Ave. formerly occupied by Houlihan’s, not only feels authentic, but tastes that way as well. The chain features other restaurants in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
After getting seated, our waiter brought over fresh, warm chips and salsa. Close your eyes, listen to the music and enjoy the chips. They’re crispy and the salsa is spicy.
For our appetizers, we chose two dishes – the Hector Quesadillas ($7.99) and the Avocado Shrimp salad ($12.99).
The quesadilla dish featured melted cheese with mild red and green chilés grilled in a flour tortilla, served with sour cream and guacamole and was perfectly prepared and hot, with just the right amount of spice and thick, rich sour cream and creamy guacamole. I thought this was the perfect way to begin our meal because it gave us a sample of all Margarita’s had to offer.
The Avocado Shrimp salad featured a colorful array of vegetables plated in an artistic manner. It was a refreshing dish to order on a hot day.
The lime vinagrette house dressing was flavorful and was a good topping for the salad.
For our main courses, we chose four different dishes to allow a sampling from the entire menu, which is large.
We started with a grilled chicken fajita platter dinner ($16.29), a steaming hot dish that sizzled as it was brought to the table. The platter featured juicy, grilled and marinated chicken breast surrounded by fresh, grilled red and green peppers, onions and sides of fresh guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce cheese, salsa fresca and warm tortillas for stuffing. In addition, black beans and Mexican rice are served with the platter.
Another guest ordered the overstuffed Taco plate ($9.99). The dish doesn’t sound like much, but don’t be fooled. It comes with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese toppings and the choice of three different toppings -- hacienda sauce, salsa picante or créma Mexicana.
The Tio’s Mexican Combo ($15.29) is listed on the menu as Tio’s favorite tasting dish and after trying it, it quickly became my favorite as well. The dish features a chicken burrito, a chicken enchilada and two chicken baby chimichangas covered in tasty sauces. It is served with Mexican rice and a choice of beans.
What I liked most about this dish was the way the different textures melded with the cheeses and sauces. The chicken baby chimichangas were crispy and the cheese and sauce from the enchilada mixed well with the rice and black beans.
Our last entrée was the Carne Asada steak ($17.99), a marinated and seasoned steak grilled and topped with roasted poblano lime sauce. The dish was served with a Rajas blend of roasted poblano and bell peppers and onions all tossed with a fresh créma Mexicana sauce.
The steak was cooked as requested (tender) and tasty and was a large portion. Because the portion was so large, it made finishing the bell peppers and onions hard to finish.
No meal at Margarita’s is complete without dessert. That being said, do not pass on the traditional Mexican flan ($5.99), a creamy dish that is tasty and smooth and served with whipped cream toppings.
Some other items to note about Margarita’s:
■ The restaurant features several rooms for dining.
■ The restaurant also has a bar. One thing we noticed is there is no mention of Happy Hour specials.
■ The bathrooms are large, clean and handicap accessible. The restaurant needs to do a better job directing patrons to their location, however. There are signs, but it’s confusing as patrons have to wind their way around several corners to find them.
■ The music was a bit loud in our dining room. With the dining room nearly filling up during our stay, the noise level was loud and the music seemed to get overwhelming.
■ The restaurant is beautifully decorated and features a variety of art, vases and objects d’art.
Tío Juan’s Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant
372 W. Mount Pleasant Ave. (Route 10)
Hours: Monday-Wednesday – 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Thursday – Saturday – 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday – 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.