The Sangria-Rita Diaries of Gloria, Buca and Matt

The weather has been pretty great lately, calling for a little patio here, a little frozen slurp there. But it's never a guarantee, so this girl drinker has been grabbing the goods when and where she can get them. I'm not going to say one word about the forecast this weekend for fear of a jinx, but what I am going to do is offer a wrap-up, a crash course, a crib sheet for you, beloved Aters. And this sheet spans three different sorts of settings: the girls' night out, the post-sport/post-move/casual lunch and the mass family dinner which may or may not include a birthday or anniversary. Two of the three locations include patios to entertain you. One includes garish decor to distract you. I think you'll know which one's which.

Gloria's Restaurant - Our event was a combo girls' night and a birthday celebration for fellow girl drinker Marla. Leslie and I couldn't decide between sangria and margarita, so the waiter told us to go with a frozen 'rita with sangria swirl. Decision made. Easy enough. The margarita was perfect -- you could taste the tequila but it didn't overwhelm the palate and, overall, the frozen concoction wasn't too sweet. No risk of a Slurpee-ta. The sangria swirl was a little on the wine-y side, but that's something I prefer, so I was a happy drinker. It blended well with the frozen portion, and we didn't feel lit up. Other girls tried the mango margarita and liked it, but said it would be too dangerous for more than one round -- the sweetness virtually guaranteed a  massive hangover.

Word of caution: Since the remodeling/expansion of the Greenville Avenue location, the sound quality of the restaurant is severely lacking and it's hard to hear a casual conversation at times. Prepare to project...or just have two margaritas and don't worry about it.

Buca di Beppo: I know, weird choice, right? I don't normally go for the giant, kitschy chains, but my dad LOVES this place and it was a family celebration. He thinks it's so fun to walk through the kitchen and that they have "basket wine," so we humor him. And, well, this time it was my birthday, so I was gonna have a drink. So was my dad -- he was feeling old for some reason. He went with a mixed drink, but after a recommendation from the waiter, I went with the house sangria...as opposed to the neighbor's or the garage's.

The Sangria was surprisingly good. Not like, homemade and marinating overnight good, but still good. Like, four-hour good. The fruit garnish was more than ample, and the flavor was deep and sweet but not sugary. Chilled but not ice-cold. It was fairly weak, which is probably a good thing for such an event and location, but I didn't feel like I was screwed out of a drink. If you're eating a pile of spaghetti with extended family, why not?

Matt's Rancho Martinez - Finally, here's my top scoring 'rita-'gria experience thus far. After moving a bit of furniture with some pals, we hit up Matt's in Lakewood for some good ol' Tex-Mex. I honestly hadn't thought about a drink but then Marla and Sharon ordered and a margarita sounded just right. Then sangria sounded even better. Thing was I'd wanted both, but didn't want a frozen margarita with a swirl. This was not a problem according to our server. I could get a margarita on the rocks with a swirl.

Fantastic. All the times I'd been to Matt's, this had never occurred to me. Stupid oversight. And don't think I didn't realize it immediately.

The flavor was outstanding. Granted, I'd been doing minor lifting after a day's work, and I was already pretty excited about the whole non-frozen, no-brain freeze opportunity, so maybe I was grading on a curve. But whatever. That 'rita-'gria was damn good and it was plentiful. It was strong, but it didn't taste that way. Two of them, however, and I'd have been officially on my ass. The sangria blended in to counter any well tequila flavor, and the tequila tempered the fruitiness just enough. It was painless and perfect. And the flautas weren't too shabby either.

So, this weekend, after you've paraded around and gotten the Irish out of your system (if that's possible)...after you decide beer's been done and you want something stronger and less green...after you realize you made plans for Sunday that might fall into the aforementioned categories...Here's hoping Girl Drink Drunk made that meal a little easier. (And feel free to leave other suggestions of margarita and sangria faves in the comments for one another...and, you know, me!)

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin