July 8 2009 12:00 AM



There was booze in the blender, and boy did it render that frozen concoction that helps us hang on. This week, the Food Fighters sought out Lansing’s best marga rita, and yes, we had a designated driver. The judges consisted of Kristie Dickenson, an author and comedian who has performed at Mac’s Bar and Cappuccino Café; Ken Orlich, an actor and the star of the upcoming independent film “Gemini,” which was shot in Lansing; At-large City Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar; and City Pulse interns and contributors Liz Reyna and Courtney Baker. At each location we asked the server to bring us the most popular margarita in the house, and each was given a rating of 1-to-10, with attention given to taste, alcoholic kick, value, service and atmosphere.

El Azteco (West). 5.1 out of 10 Based on the experience of several of our judges, the margaritas at El Az are cheap, potent and tasty. Two in our group were already fans, and one went so far as to give them a 10 before we had even tasted anything. However, the mess that was delivered was unlike anything we’d seen there before. A signal got crossed somewhere, because the pineapple and/or orange juiceflavored Especial Margarita on the rocks ($18 for a 64 oz. pitcher) was nothing close to Lansing’s best. It was way too citrusy for most of us, with one of the judges saying it tasted like Kroger-brand frozen orange juice. It did have a good kick to it, though, easing the sting of the uneven service, but this was not a good margarita. We’ll be back of course, but this would have been a bad first experience.
El Azteco (West), 1016 W. Saginaw St., Lansing. (517) 485-4589

Mango’s Grill. 5.5 out 10 After we ordered a single drink to share six ways, the staff started talking smack about us in Spanish (guess they didn’t realize we had a Latina in our group who understood every word they said — booya!). We were given a frozen mango margarita with a sugared rim ($12 for 32 oz.), which was light on the hooch but heavy on flavor.
Someone in our group called this “a really good fruit smoothie,” but we were out for margaritas, not kiddie cocktails. The alltelemundo TV sets were an interesting novelty (I think we were watching a show called “Strippers, Villains and Alien Autopsies”), and the atmosphere was the most upscale of any place we visited. Hopefully their tequila-pouring arms will be a little heavier when we come back for the ginormous 128
oz. margarita.
Mango’s Grill, 5900 Park Lake Road, East Lansing. (517) 339-8400

Cancun Mexican Grill. 7.1 out of 10 As
one of the ladies in our group ogled the doe-eyed maitre d’, our server
presented us with the large house margarita ($10 for 32 oz.). Right
away everyone experienced a limy sourness that quite physically felt as
though it were clinging to the roof of each of our respective mouths.
That tartness, however, hid the alcohol, which this one had plenty of —
someone was feeling generous — but it also made you drink rather slowly
(which, in retrospect, may have been a good thing). It also led to more
than one of us licking the salt off the rim to kill that aftertaste,
making for an interesting scene. The ambience was festive and
lively, with colorful carved wooden tables and chairs, and it had a
cute little patio if you can get past the mosquitoes, which we
couldn’t. 7.1
Cancun Mexican Grill, 1754 Central Park Drive # A, Okemos. (517) 347-8114.

Los Tres Amigos (East Lansing). 7.7 out of 10 The
most expensive margarita of the night ($13 for 32 oz.) was also the
fastest to disappear. It was served on the rocks with salt, had zero
aftertaste and was described as “fabulous,” “refreshing” and “tangy,”
depending on whom you asked. It had just the right amount of lime and
orange flavors to balance out the tequila, adding to its ease of
drinkability. The décor was strikingly similar to Cancun Mexican Grill,
and the complimentary chips and salsa were deemed the best of the
evening. (It should be noted that every place we visited had free chips
and salsa.) And Los Tres’ homey, expansive patio is perfect for
enjoying the sun while you tie a good buzz on. Los Tres Amigos (East
Lansing), 1227 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing. (517) 853-5800.

La Senorita. 8.8 out of 10 With
more than 30 kinds of margaritas available in any way, shape or form
you can think of, La Senorita took top honors. In fact, this seemed
less like a restaurant and more like a margarita bar that also happens
to serve food. The Ultimate Margarita ($8 for 17 oz.) was smooth yet
strong, which is tough to pull off. A blend of three kinds of Sauza
guarantees a kick in the head; if you like tequila, this is your drink.
Somehow we also ended up with a Blue Caribbean margarita ($7.50), which
features blue Curacao, Midori melon liqueur and Sauza Gold tequila.
This was unanimously picked as the best-tasting drink of the evening.
The melon and citrus flavors combined to create a popping sensation
that made this fun to drink. Alas, there is no patio, preventing you
from taking your margarita to its natural environment (outdoors), but
with drinks like this, who needs the sun? 8.8
La Senorita, 2706 Lake Lansing Road, Lansing. (517) 485-0166. www. lasenorita.com
No shakers of salt were lost in the making of this story.