For whatever reason, margaritas exist in a world of extremes. They're either artificial neon green, made with disgusting sweet-sour mix and bad tequila and served in a massive styrofoam or plastic cup, or they've been fancified with slightly better tequila, fresh-squeezed juice, and random tropical fruit purees or extravagant garnishes. If you have a brain in your head, you are not above drinking copious amounts of either incarnation, but all those artificial dyes and subpar spirits probably aren't good for you in the long-haul, which means that you must go immediately to TJ's Seafood's Preston-Royal location and order a margarita sandia, immediately. The new restaurant home of everyone's favorite fish market has a full bar -- thank God -- and a capable staff behind it.
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The cocktail menu here is pretty much what you'd expect for a North Dallas locale, Cape Codders and martinis and G&Ts, but the margarita sandia, hailing from the Mexican Riviera, is a particularly exciting surprise. The margarita sandia at TJ's, like its traditional inspiration, is made with pureed watermelon, tequila (duh), simple syrup, and lime. This cocktail is the few good things about a Texas summer shaken delicately together in a glass -- fresh watermelon, a twist of lime juice, and lots and lots of ice. Even though watermelons aren't even close to their peak ripeness just yet, even a mediocre watermelon is pretty damn good when mixed with tequila.
And there was a lot of tequila in this drink. People often complain about margaritas being watered down, a fact you keenly understand if you've ever bought any of the $4 happy hour variety, but that generally only occurs when you're trying to cover up the taste of miserable tequila. I didn't ask what kind of tequila was used in the margaria sandia, because it didn't matter -- it was smooth, a little rich, and there was a hell of a lot of it in my glass. You only ask what kind of tequila is in your drink when it's bad, so you can avoid it in the future. Here, you just sip until your glass is empty, then order another.
It's hard to improve on a drink that is so simple and well-balanced, but the margarita sandia could benefit from a little heat. A slice of jalapeno muddled into the mix would really brighten up a lackluster watermelon, or maybe some of that habanero-infused vodka they keep behind the bar that will all but melt your lips off. A big hunk of compressed watermelon on a cocktail skewer and dunked into the drink would also make the margarita sandia better, but now we're just being picky.
The margarita sandia is in a very new and fresh class of fancy margaritas that you can find on menus all over the city. (See: blood orange margarita at Gemma, avocado margarita at Meso Maya). It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that a cocktail menu in Dallas must (maybe by law) include a margarita of some kind, and chefs who are creating interesting dishes with expensive ingredients don't want their food paired with a bullshit cocktail. No matter who's the chicken and who's the egg, Dallas' cocktail scene is thriving because its food scene is thriving. That's something that we can all drink to.