It seems like I read the words “authentic tastes of Mexico City” on an improbable number of bar and restaurant marketing materials. I have never been to Mexico City, so I figure this is like Uno’s in Sundance Square proclaiming they have “true Chicago-style pizza.” I store those sales taglines in my mental “stuff we tell tourists” bin. Having based my idea of Mexico City culture purely off the badass opening sequence of the James Bond film Spectre, I know two things about the place: 1.) Those citizens know how to throw amazing parades, and 2.) the folks down there are adept at dodging helicopter blades. The flick, however, left precious few clues about the local bar scene.
The sole margarita I’ve had in Mexico was downed at Arturo’s Restaurant in the little border town of Nuevo Progreso. It featured just tequila and limejuice with a skewered olive. Was it good? Yes. Any alcohol would have improved this gringa’s disastrous decision to jump on the walking bridge with the rest of the Texas border-dwelling humanity on December 26 for some post-Christmas Mexican bargain shopping, so the quality of my drink was probably relative.
My lack of firsthand knowledge about our southern neighbor came to mind as I waited for my drink at the new Americado, a stone’s throw from the TCU campus. The new eatery’s website claims the restaurant is “a fast-fine eatery inspired by markets, local bars, and taco stands lining the streets of Mexico City.” The intentionally industrialized façade provides interesting visual textures but does not prepare you for the dining space that looks like you popped through a portal into contemporary Scandinavia. With its chrome counters, gleaming white subway tile, and an IKEA cafeteria-style décor, I expected the kitchen to serve steaming Swedish meatballs while I snagged an unassembled entertainment center for $30. This institutional level of cleanliness and sterility didn’t exactly conjure images of open-air markets, tequila, and street tacos, at least in my occidental mind.
Honestly, the bar menu is like a big-breasted Bond girl riding a French-speaking dolphin: There are almost too many magical things going on to concentrate on a single item. The Mariachi Trumpet house margarita is a tart and sweet combination of my personal favorite mixing tequila, Dulce Vida Blanco, with Quattro di Amore liqueur, fresh lime and orange juices, and agave nectar. Dulce Vida tequila is so smooth it’s perfect as an undressed shot or on the rocks (which the bar offers for $8 in the blanco, reposado, or añejo styles). For fans of the bar world’s smoky it-drink, choose the Mezcal Ginger Paloma, a combination of El Silencio Espadín, ginger liqueur Domaine de Canton, grapefruit juice, and agave nectar. The La Zona Rosa, Dulce Bee, and El Camucho cocktails are also excellent choices.
My pick for the best cocktail to sip during the upcoming sweltering summer is the La Fresca Frozen Cucumber drink, mixed with Effen cucumber vodka, triple sec, and lime and cucumber juices and rimmed with Tajin seasoning salt. It’s a bright, crisp, icy concoction. The house frozen margarita is also a delicious choice, made with Camarena silver tequila, triple sec, lime, lemon, and orange juices.
There were still some hiccups of the non-drinking variety with the food-hall portion of the space during my recent visits, but that’s to be expected during the initial weeks after opening. I recommend heading straight to the spot marked “El Bar” and ordering one of the aforementioned drinks before perusing the food menus.
I’m fairly confident that using Americado as the basis for what the markets, bars, and taco stands of Mexico City are like is as faulty as using 007 movies as the standard for British lovers. However, if this is Fort Worth’s take on Mexico City with Swedish modern furniture, I’m fully onboard.