city fare
December 2, 2005

Steady, widespread appeal
by Lisa Waterman Gray

On Wednesday evenings, Margarita’s West, 12200 Johnson Dr., Shawnee, KS, serves a great margarita at an amazing price — $3.50 for a 10-ounce tumbler of liquid goodness. Pick another night and you’ll spend nearly six bucks for this lovely concoction.

Too bad their guacamole ($3.95) doesn’t measure up. During our first visit, it had almost no flavor beyond that of smashed avocado. After my friend, Kerri, doctored it with their moderately spicy salsa and a generous sprinkle of salt, we dug in.

Slightly warm, crispy tortilla chips tasted great with our personalized guac and Margarita Dip ($6.89), a zesty hot pepper cheese concoction that arrived in a small brown crock; although some broke easily when dipped.

Kerri ordered Lucky #13, the flauta dinner ($8.95). Three crisp-tender fried tortilla tubes enfolded well-shredded chicken meat (also available with beef). They were topped with a deep red sauce that provided a welcome kick, and accompanied by fluffy though slightly dry rice. Creamy refried beans needed more salt.

#10 – The Acapulco – featured several cheese and onion enchiladas. Loads of cheese inside and out, the same delicious red sauce, and rice and beans comprised the plate. It was warm and filling Mexican comfort food for a slightly chilly evening.

We split an order of Fried Ice Cream ($3.90) after Kerri warned me of its gargantuan size. It rivaled the margarita for flavor and value. A cinnamon-dusted crispy/soft crust encased a huge mound of ice cream. Generous drizzles of honey enhanced the sweetness, whipped cream dollops surrounded it all, and a maraschino cherry topped another dollop at the crown of this deliciously simple dessert.

The #13 flauta dinner with chips and salsa from Margarita's. (photo by Ron Johnson)

Our young, handsome and pleasant server seemed a bit spacey. When he delivered our “to go” boxes, Kerri requested a bag so we could transport remaining chips to accompany leftover Margarita Dip. He finally obliged after we asked a third time. During our second visit, the waitress cared for a packed house. Though perhaps a little slow, at times, she seemed fully aware of our readiness to order, box up leftovers or pay our bill.

Just the right amount of salt made the guacamole more palatable this time, but the green stuff lacked any heat or sweet/savory onion flavor, both of which I tend to expect in a good guacamole. Manager Lindsey Delagarza said Margarita’s goes easy with all of their seasonings in order to please the greatest number of patrons’ palates.

My husband, Mark, and I also tried Spinach Quesadillas ($6.95). Eight perfectly grilled tortilla wedges encompassed mellow cheese and plenty of spinach with a heat that gradually crept up on our taste buds. They encircled a handful of shredded lettuce and a mound of ultra-fresh sour cream.

I then dove in to my Chicken & Molé ($8.39) whose savory scent reached my nose as it approached the table. Huge chunks of white meat chicken bathed in the red brown sauce with a spicy burn. Moderately firm beans, fluffy and lightly seasoned rice and three foil-wrapped tortillas completed the plate. I requested a side of the restaurant’s new Chile Verde Sauce and had a furnace in my mouth from the second it hit my tongue.

Mark ordered #3, The Durango ($8.79). It included two terrific pork tamales with plenty of seasoned meat in a thick, wrap of tender masa dough, and a fully packed taco that featured loads of moist ground beef, shredded lettuce and small tomato chunks. Refried beans with a touch of heat, and loads of cheese and rice complemented these offerings.

Margarita’s West stays plenty busy, from families with babies to girlfriends enjoying a night out. The basement room has loads of neon, a faux desert mural, red vinyl booths and wood paneling. A second room, at a slightly higher elevation, has numerous tall windows and ceiling fans — a bit too drafty for cool, fall dining.

The main room was drafty too during our second visit, due to fans set on high speed — probably to minimize smoke. Fortunately, we didn’t find ourselves in a cloud on either visit. Classic rock music at high volume overshadowed our conversation at times.

Bargain hunters will appreciate the deals available at Margarita’s West, which include Tuesday’s Tacos, cheap margaritas on Mondays and Wednesdays, other drink specials that are available on Chiefs Game Days, and lunch specials served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Lisa Waterman Gray can be contacted at


Margarita’s West

12200 Johnson Dr.

Shawnee, KS


(Other Margarita’s locations include 13401 Holmes, Kansas City, MO; 2829 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO; and 7013 North Oak Trafficway, Gladstone, MO)

HOURS: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sun., noon-10 p.m.

(photo by Ron Johnson)

Ratings: (out of four stars)

FOOD ***

Key: $-under $10 • $$-$10 to $20 • $$$-over $20


fork, knife, spoon


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