Though margaritas are often associated with places where the temperature doesn’t reach -10, we like to think that Chicago is actually one of the best places to enjoy a limey tequila drink. You can have one to cool down in the summer and you have a few more in the winter to pretend like the foot of snow on your driveway doesn’t exist.
From classic spots that serve very simple pitchers to more upscale restaurants that infuse tequila with chorizo, here are the 12 best places to drink margaritas in the city, ranked.
When we walk down 18th Street in Pilsen, we’re immediately drawn to La Luna because of its Garfield-esque, bright orange exterior. What gets us in the door is the groovy Latin soundtrack bleeding through its open windows. But what keeps us in our seats is this casual Mexican spot's margaritas—from their standard with an excellent balance of Milagro Blanco, Cointreau, and lime, to the refreshing and smoky frozen hibiscus with mezcal. And when we want a little kick, we go for the Mata Miel. Flavored with pineapple and just the right amount of habanero, it’s like sunbathing in the tropics but without feeling like you’re roasting in a 100-degree heatwave.
“Sotano” literally translates to basement, so this spot beneath River North’s Frontera Grill has a fitting name. This sleek, dark bar is an enjoyable place to hang out and drink while you snack on things like tacos or habanero glazed fried chicken bites. They have a wide range of fruit-forward margarita variations like the prickly pear with raicilla and guanabana liqueur, as well as the complex tacos al pastor made with chorizo-infused mezcal, pineapple, and lime. Each sip of this drink kind of feels like you just took a sip of a margarita while mid-bite in a taco. It’s funky and strange in the best way possible, and you’ll keep drinking to try and figure out what the hell is going on.
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Tzuco in River North works well for an upscale Mexican meal if you’re in the area. But if you don’t have Daddy Warbucks on your side, stopping by just for some margaritas at the bar is a better strategy. Their Tzuco Margarita is expertly balanced, with just enough bite from the tequila and added freshness from crushed cucumber. For something a little less straightforward, the chile-dusted pibil with almond, cumin, and guajillo is perfectly savory, but still fruity enough so you don’t feel like you just consumed a whole dinner in a rocks glass.
With its airy, plant-filled interior, Lonesome Rose has the atmosphere of a relaxed SoCal spot minus being surrounded by endless traffic or the possibility of seeing Ben Affleck walking his dog. There’s plenty of table seating if you’ve come to tackle a full Tex-Mex meal, but popping in just for a good, decently-priced margarita is something we highly endorse. Come for their simple yet satisfying house margarita which is only $10, or upgrade to a spicy one for just a dollar more. And during Happy Hour from 3-6pm Sunday through Thursday, their frozen margarita is only $6 and is the delicious adult slurpee that you wish they had at your local 7/11.
With over 14 different margaritas, Del Toro in Pilsen has a different version for each zodiac sign, plus the two runner-ups that didn’t make the final roster. This relaxed Mexican spot covers a wide range of varieties, from basic pineapple margaritas to concoctions like the sweet and spicy Tamarindo made with tamarind, habanero syrup, and Squirt. Come with friends to enjoy the summer breeze on their large patio or grab a seat inside if the humidity makes you feel like you’re turning into a human flytrap. Just make sure you’re aware of their quirky “no baseball caps” policy on Fridays and Saturdays—dress hats are apparently fine, so feel free to bring your top hat.
Cesar's Killer Margaritas
If you’ve ever found yourself at the Lakeview Mariano's in desperate search for a public bathroom, chances are you unknowingly zoomed past Cesar’s Killer Margaritas. But this busy Mexican place is worth backtracking to because they have a great selection of margaritas, plus a relaxing sidewalk patio that’s perfect for people watching and enjoying the summer breeze. Margaritas here come in all sorts of fruity varieties, like guava, banana, and chamoy, and can be customized with salt, chile salt, or sugar on the rims. And though these lean a little sweet, they are surprisingly strong. Don’t go in thinking you can make clear-headed grocery decisions at Mariano’s afterwards.
This Mexican restaurant in Fulton Market always feels like a party. Loud indie music blasts through the speakers and tables and bar seats are packed full of people about to embark on a night of bar-hopping. There’s a lot going on here, but Bar Takito is perfect for kicking the night off with a gigantic margarita tower. They have summery options like watermelon and mango, but our favorite is the coconut margarita which is creamy, just a little peppery, and comes with a sugar-lined rim.
At Senoritas Cantina in Pilsen, you won’t find intricate drinks made with ice harvested from a thousand-year-old iceberg or tequila infused with unicorn tears. Instead, this lively Mexican restaurant is perfect for a lowkey hang or drink date when you just want something straightforward. They’re served frozen or on the rocks, and come in six flavors (lime, mango, pineapple, strawberry, cucumber, jalapeño, and coconut)—that’s it. But their simplicity lets their refreshing balance of sweet, sour, and tequila flavor shine and will let you focus on holding a conversation with your date rather than trying to figure out exactly what unicorn tears taste like.
Cesca's Margarita Bar and Grill
Cescas Margarita Bar and Grill is a casual Mexican place in Andersonville whose busy patio feels like a friend’s backyard bash if that same friend also had a never-ending supply of margaritas. Their standard option is made with their house tequila and can be customized with pomegranate, raspberry, and mango, plus a few “frozen only” varieties like piña colada. For something a little more exciting, they also have specialty drinks like a smoky and spicy Mezcalita with pineapple, jalapeños, and mezcal or their Dulce Escorpion with mango and chamoy puree.
Tuco & Blondie
What sets Tuco and Blondie’s margaritas apart from everyone else’s is one simple ingredient: egg white. So the margaritas at this Lincoln Park Mexican spot have a unique foaminess folded in with the usual tart and sweet flavors, all for just $10. For something stronger, get the Grande Margarita which comes with an inverted Coronarita thrown into it. The added freshness from the beer makes this larger drink perfect for an afternoon of sipping as you try to improve your Vitamin D levels on their outdoor patio. But if it randomly rains because that’s how Chicago works, their interior full of neon lights and colorful seating successfully captures the summer-y atmosphere while keeping you dry.
Though the tacos at Wicker Park’s Big Star are just fine, sharing a pitcher of margaritas with some friends on their always bustling outdoor patio is an iconic Chicago summertime activity. Margaritas here are simple: there’s only three flavors (classic, mango, and strawberry), they’re ordered frozen or on the rocks, and you can get them spicy or with mezcal. There’s not much to them, but they're pleasantly boozy and refreshing, and are perfect for staying cool when it’s so hot that the act of existing makes you sweat. Just make sure to get here earlier than you’d expect if you want to sit outside since trying to get a table can sometimes feel like dealing with a mob of Black Friday shoppers.
If you’re as attracted to Big Star’s loud crowds as much as a mosquito wants to land on a person covered in Off! check out Antique Taco in Wicker Park (though they also have a Brideport location with a massive patio). Inside this counter service spot’s laidback space, you don’t have to worry about rowdy neighboring tables reenacting LMFAO’s music video for “Shots”, and can instead enjoy some decent tacos and margaritas in peace. Their margarita menu only consists of three to four options, but they’re all balanced and refreshing. We like both the house rosemary margarita and the blueberry basil which have a unique herbaceousness while still tasting light and fruity. They sometimes come in colorful plastic cups, but don’t let their juiciness and cute appearance fool you—these are definitely more potent than your morning glass of Minute Maid.