By Dr. Ink
Good thing I don’t live in proximity to El Zarape Restaurant & Tequileria, where I would likely stagger out of happy hour all too frequently from their $6 spicy mango margaritas and $5 rum horchatas. Or as I learned in my last visit, I’d be powerless in resisting their $4 pineapple-infused La Fortaleza tequila shots, which verge on two-ounce pours.
The temptations, however, don’t end there. Happy-hour tacos cost $2.25 apiece, and they are no less bulgy and sumptuous than the ones you’ll find at El Zarape’s smaller, original location in University Heights.
In fact, these might be better because the ingredients are folded into supple corn tortillas made at a tortilleria station in the main dining room. If you want to take some home and butter them up, which I did, an easy dollar buys you four.
Despite a crowded bar lounge, I was able to seize a table quickly in the colorfully decorated dining room, beneath copper pots hanging from the ceiling and with Mexican statuary and folk art staring at me from a few wall niches as I vigorously sipped down two shots of the tequila.
The pineapple element offered a caramelized sweetness up front, followed by the natural, spicy smoothness of this same tequila I recall enjoying without any flavoring at Cantina Mayahuel. The fruity infusion, though, is a bonus.
So were the three servers who promptly kept refreshing my chip basket within the course of an hour, as if they sensed the tequila was affecting my motor skills. Fresh salsas came with each refill — a standard tomato-y version brightened by onions and cilantro, and a green puree of avocados riddled by too much vinegar or citrus.
The two tacos I ordered were stabilizing, one of them brimming with moist pollo asado, and the other packed with tender carnitas, which harbored a few end pieces sporting prized, crispy edges. Both were loaded with cubes of fresh avocado.
If you come knocking for margaritas during happy hour, they range from $5 to $7, and $15 to $18 for pitchers. Draft beers of common labels such as Pacifico and Negra Modelo sell for $3.50 (16 ounces) and $5.50 (21 ounces). But with so much tequila flying around in this spirited atmosphere, drinking the low-alcohol suds doesn’t quite jive to the vibe.