Classic UMaine Restaurants – Margaritas

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant was opened in downtown Orono in 1987. It was the brainchild of John Pelletier, who had been running another successful Mexican joint called Tío Juan’s for a couple of years in Concord, NH. The concept was based somewhat on the conversion of Chuck’s Steakhouse in Mansfield, CT, (where Mr. Pelletier had first honed his restaurateur chops) into Margaritaville; sporting a full Mexican menu. That restaurant later changed its name to Margaritas at the request of Jimmy Buffet himself and was eventually bought by Pelletier’s growing company in the 1992. Throughout the 90s and 00s, Margaritas Management Group continued to buy unique retail spaces from jails to power plants, converting them into their familiar theme until Tío Juan’s Margaritas Mexican Restaurant earned the title of largest Mexican franchise in all of Hockey East territory. Regardless of the fact that Margaritas has now become a popular chain restaurant, UMaine students can always take pride in the fact that theirs was the class of the fleet.
The best thing about Margaritas is the spacious and festive areas around the bar that allow for students and alums to agglomerate while sipping one of the 20 plus varieties of their namesake beverage. The Fill The Steins Executive Committee has deemed this space the official Friday evening Homecoming dinner spot for more than a decade and will be there for sure come next October 17. Our recommendation for maximum enjoyment of the Margaritas experience is to get there early to snag that luxurious window seat out front and to order your drinks in pints…we still don’t understand the benefit of drinking Tequila Daisies out of a modified martini glass…it’s a recipe for spillage!
What is often forgotten about Margaritas is the fact that the food is also fantastic and has been continually updated over the years based off Mr. Pelletier and Co.’s many trips to actual Mexico. Though I’m sure it’s not EXACTLY like they make it in Oaxaca; for Central Maine, the cuisine is about as close as you can get to South of the Border without buying fireworks from Pedro’s.
My personal favorite and something I look forward to with every visit is the Chicken Chimichanga. It’s a chicken burrito deep fried and piled on with a savory red chili sauce, guacamole, and crema (what we New Englanders like to call sour cream). Accompanied by Mexican spiced rice and some filling refried beans, it’s a hearty base for a late night trip to the Bear Brew.
Back in my collegiate days, I was always privy to the Wednesday night 2-for-1 fajita special. I don’t know if that’s still a “thing” but I can vouch that the shrimp fajitas are worth full price (think of it as stimulating the economy). All the fajitas are served on a sizzlin’ platter with onions and peppers along with the traditional accoutrements of sour cream, guac, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and a pile of tortillas to make your own…the fact that you have to put some work into it makes them all the more satisfying. 
For those on a vegetarian kick or who prefer to get something a little fancier, the Chile Relleno is a whole poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, battered, and fried. It’s topped with that same red chile sauce and comes with the ever present rice and beans. I’d say it’s a bit on the “lighter side” were it not for the pound of cheese they cram in there…good stuff if your not lactose intolerant!   
Finally, there are a variety of variety plates to choose from for folks who want to buy the farm…Tío’s Mexican Combo, The Mexican Flag, Mucho Sabor, Margaritas Famous Taster…so many flavors it’s like there’s a party in your mouth and everyone’s invited…Just plan on sharing or you may wind up upping the ante on that freshman 15. Arriba! 

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