Address: 895 Bank St, Ottawa
Hours: 8am – 10pm (Sun, Tue – Wed), 8am – 2pm (Thu – Sat), closed Monday (hours may vary during/after pandemic)
In late 2020, Margarita took over the short-lived Bowman’s location at Bank and Clarey in the Glebe, expanding beyond their first restaurant in the neighbourhood, Mona’s Taqueria. It has always been a great space inside and has one of the biggest and nicest patios in the area that isn’t in the concrete and asphalt wasteland known as Lansdowne. Once vaccinations started to gain some traction last summer, my wife and I stopped by their patio for a late lunch.
The menu has a lot of familiar Mexican dishes, although judging from what’s coming out the kitchen, they’re plated with a bit more flair than your standard mom and pop Mexican place.
Being a fan of dumplings from around the world, the empanadas seemed like an obvious choice, while my wife couldn’t resist the chicken enchiladas. Tortas are a well-known Mexican sandwich, but I haven’t seen the guajolote sandwich on menus before, so I went for that.
This was in the early days of Margarita returning to dine-in service after being takeout-only for potentially their whole existence, and unfortunately it showed in the service. Everyone was friendly and wanting to help, but didn’t seem to have assigned tables and there was both overlap and gaps in service, and it all seemed very inefficient.
I nursed my Modelo for sustenance though, and when our food did start arriving, it was worth the wait.
The empanadas ($13) have a choice of three proteins – beef, chicken or vegan – and we got a mixture of all three. We had them once before as takeout, and they were impressively crisp then, and were even more so fresh out of the kitchen. The fillings were as equally well-executed as their pastry, and their rich flavours were nicely complemented by the side of guacamole.
My guajolote ($15, no longer on the menu) came filled with corn tortillas, cheese, lettuce, and my choice of protein, for which I chose the carnitas. The lightly crusty roll held everything together quite well, and the flavour of the corn tortillas and the carnitas were spot on. A side of house-made tortilla chips was simple but great, with a mildly spicy sauce and a bright pico de gallo giving contrasting textures and flavours to the hearty sandwich.
The enchiladas were a good example of a classic dish done well. Comprised of corn tortillas wrapped around tender chicken and doused in a verdant salsa verde, salty queso fresco, and a punch of heat from fresh jalapenos, it was exactly what my wife was hoping for.
Visita numero dos
Our second visit to Margarita came a few months later in the fall. It was another late dinner, but it was much quieter inside the restaurant in November than it was in the patio on a hot July afternoon.
To start things off this time around, we got an order of the guacamole and chips ($18). We should have known from the price tag, but this was a big order of guac. There’s more than a few avocados in it and there was enough of the house-made chips to make for a reasonably-sized appetizer for four. For just my wife and I, we had to restrain ourselves and take some home, lest we not have any room for our main courses!
My wife’s enchiladas were even better than last time, with the plate getting a makeover since our last visit, although there was a corresponding uptick in the price for the additional accoutrements.
I ordered the cochinita pibil ($28), which features pork that’s slow cooked overnight in banana leaves, axiote and dried peppers. The resultant dish was deeply flavourful, with a hint of spiciness, and the meat itself was ultra tender, but not dried out. For my sides, I had opted for the rice and beans. The beans were wonderfully smooth and creamy, without a grainy, undercooked bean in sight. The rice served as a blank canvas for the beans and surprisingly-spicy pickled onions.
With some great dishes that won’t leave you hungry, it’s been nice to see Margarita find its legs, and I’m looking forward to returning again, presumably for a late meal.