Margarita's North Naples location is a lot more than a tasty beverage

Margarita's serves two kinds of salsa, one a pureed salsa and the other a pico de gallo, both served in a split bowl atop clay cookware.

Photo by Kelly Merritt

Margarita's serves two kinds of salsa, one a pureed salsa and the other a pico de gallo, both served in a split bowl atop clay cookware.

Margarita’s – Naples

Where: 8971 U.S. 41 N. (at Vanderbilt Beach Road), North Naples

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Starters $3.50-$8.95; lunch entrees $8.95-$17.95; dinner entrees $10.95-$19.95

Information: 239-431-6206 or margaritasontheisland.com

— If you haven't taken a stroll through the Pavilion shopping center in a while, but you like good food, you may be missing some special finds. One of them is Margarita's Mexican Restaurant.

Margarita's has been a popular Mexican restaurant on Marco Island for a while. They've now opened a sister Margarita's restaurant in North Naples, and the verdict is in. The new Margarita's deserves props for consistent, flavorful Mexican food.

Your meal will begin as most meals do at Mexican restaurants. The usual chips and salsa will show up at table, but at Margarita's, you'll receive two kinds of salsa with very fresh, very crisp chips. One is a pureed salsa and the other is a pico de gallo. They are served in a charming split bowl atop clay cookware. Both salsas are good on their own, but eaten together on a single chip, they are delicious. Chips and salsa refills are $2.95 each, but it’s worth it and it’s nice to have the choice of salsas instead of a single salsa.

While the décor is peculiar — day-glow patterns on black booths, chartreuse walls separated by portraitures — it is accented by lots of attractive clay cookware displayed on shelves. It is a very relaxed place where putting on airs is useless.

You’d expect a place called Margarita’s to have great margaritas, and they do. Premium tequila choices abound.

In fact, Margarita’s is a cold beer or margarita kind of place, where you can feel comfortable on your own, with friends, with your significant other or a large group. Don’t expect the servers to fawn over you, but they are efficient and take pride when they hear a meal is to a customer’s liking. Flat-screen TVs allow for pairing your favorite game or event with a Mexican meal and cold beverage.

Two of Margarita’s newest entrees take the cake for freshness and flavor. And with both dishes priced at less than $14 with ample side dishes, are a steal. The burrito suizo ($12.95) is a shredded chicken dish that comes with salsa verde layered in a flour tortilla with cheddar cheese, topped with salsa verde and garnished with green onion and just the right dressing of sour cream. It’s fresh and flavorful, not at all heavy like some Mexican dishes can be, but just filling enough that you feel satisfied.

Another new entrée is the burrito enchilada ($13.95) which comes stuffed with charbroiled steak, layered in a flour tortilla with cheddar cheese, tomatoes and black beans. This dish is topped with cheddar and red enchilada sauce. Another garnish of green onions adds a jolt of freshness, and a small amount of sour cream and cotija cheese adds just the right hint of creamy. You can add a cheese sauce for an extra $1 to either of the burritos, but you probably won’t need it.

Although it’s almost too much food, the house samplers are delicious and each is a great value. For lunch, you can get your choice of three of the house favorites for just $11.95. They are tostadas — shredded beef, chicken, pork or ground beef, enchiladas — shredded beef, chicken or cheese; a hard or soft taco with chicken, pork or ground beef; and a tamale with choice of chicken, vegetarian or pork. At dinner, the house sampler goes up a dollar to $12.95.

Regulars love Margarita’s tamales, which come in three varieties. The pork tamale is the most flavorful, but even the vegetarian tamale is scrumptious — it’s made with sautéed red peppers, onions and cilantro, with smoked Gouda cheese and topped with ranchero sauce. The pork tamale is made with succulent pulled pork and salsa verde, topped with tomatillo sauce.

The chicken tamales are made with shredded chicken, red mole sauce topped with ranchero sauce. Each order comes with two cornhusk-wrapped tamales and two enormous sides of your choice of Mexican rice, white rice, refried beans, charra beans or black beans. And at just $11.95, the tamales are another bargain. Tamales are one of those great dishes that are great for sharing.

Another bonus to Margarita’s is the fajita options. Steak, chicken and shrimp fajitas have been done to death, but at Margarita’s you can also choose from fresh blackened tuna fajitas and carnitas, which are made from slow-roasted pork that’s sautéed like other proteins that traditionally make fajitas ($13.95 to $17.95).

The Cozumel shrimp ($17.95) is another seafood treat, in that the shrimp is sautéed with green olives, onions, cilantro, garlic and lime juice. It’s served over rice and drizzled with warm salsa verde, but it’s delicious on its own. Numerous other entrees complete the menu, with a smattering of Americanized Mexican dishes.

At most Mexican restaurants, you get so much food it’s tempting to overlook the appetizers. But at Margarita’s the appetizers are spicy fun. The tiny taco trio ($7.50) comes with three itty-bitty soft corn tacos of shredded beef, chicken and pork with cilantro, onions and cheddar cheese. The tortilla soup ($3.50/cup, $4.50/bowl) is authentic, and jalapeño lovers will love the jalapeño queso blanco ($5.75), a house cheese sauce with freshly chopped jalapeños and green onions.

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