Chicago's Margarita Power Rankings
The 17 best places to drink margaritas in the city.
Chicago is an ideal place to enjoy this ubiquitous cocktail. You have them to cool down in the summer, and a few more in the winter to pretend like the foot of snow on your driveway doesn’t exist. But what makes for a great margarita? It takes a special combination of plenty of alcohol, a well-salted rim, and the right balance of sweet and sour. Plus, it doesn’t hurt if the cocktail is served in an environment that actually makes us want to drink them with our friends. After all, margaritas are the ultimate social cocktail—and these are 17 of our favorites in Chicago.
photo credit: Veda Kilaru
You won’t find a better margarita in Chicago than the one at Osito’s Tap in Little Village. It’s a classic sweet-and-sour reposado version with enough alcohol to let you know you’re not just drinking juice, but not so much that you have to choke it down. And at $10 a pop during Happy Hour, it’s hard to beat grabbing a few with friends and settling in on the side patio of this quiet cocktail bar. For something with a little more finesse, the El Pepinaso is a delicious take on a spicy margarita with unexpected ingredients like aloe liqueur.
When we walk down 18th Street in Pilsen, we’re immediately drawn to La Luna because of its Garfield-esque, bright orange exterior. What gets us in the door is the sight of all the sidewalk diners housing delicious-looking guacamole. But what keeps us in our seats is this casual Mexican spot's margaritas—from their standard with an excellent balance of tequila, Cointreau, and lime, to the refreshing seasonal frozen options. And when we want a little kick, we go for the spicy version. Flavored with jalapeno, it’s like sunbathing in the tropics but without feeling like you’re roasting in a 100-degree heatwave.
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photo credit: Veda Kilaru
Estereo FM feels like an all-day party—complete with two massive disco balls, an upbeat soundtrack of vintage Latin vinyl, and spinning drink machines spitting out the best frozen margaritas in the city. The salted mango tastes like biting into a boozy ripe mango, and for something smokier, there’s a blackberry, lime and mezcal option. In true party form, you can get both flavors swirled together for the ultimate adult slushie.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Cruz Blanca Cervecería & Taqueria
There are plenty of boozy taco spots in the West Loop, and Cruz Blanca beats out most of them. The food is good, but more importantly for the purposes of this list, so are the margaritas. They’re flavorful, consistent, and served in pint glasses. The non-standard ones include a spicy mango or a smoked watermelon, and neither is cloying. Plus, with the exception of the top-shelf Cadillac margaritas, the cocktails are also available by the pitcher. So it’s a great place to go with a group and complain about Chicago’s drunken Randolph taco restaurant row.
photo credit: Bar Sotano
"Sotano" literally translates to basement, so this spot beneath River North’s Frontera Grill has a fitting name. The underground bar is an enjoyable place to hang out solo or with a small group, and drink interesting takes on margaritas. Like the seasonal carrot and habanero option that’s thick and sweet and spicy, or the complex tacos al pastor made with chorizo-infused mezcal. This drink kind of feels like you just took a sip of a margarita while mid-bite in a taco. It’s funky and strange in the best way possible, and you’ll keep drinking to try and figure out what the hell is going on.
Though the tacos at Wicker Park’s Big Star are just fine, sharing a pitcher of margaritas with friends on their patio is an iconic Chicago summertime activity. The margaritas here are simple: there are only three flavors (classic, mango, and strawberry), they’re ordered frozen or on the rocks, and you can get them spicy or with mezcal. They're pleasantly boozy, and are perfect for staying cool when it’s so hot that the act of existing makes you sweat.
There are only three margarita options at Antique Taco, but they’re balanced and surprisingly potent. The rosemary house special has a unique herbaceousness while still tasting light and citrusy, and the strawberry lemon and tropical mezcal are both good too. Importantly, they’re available by the quart if you want to be economical, or you can get a single serving in a colorful plastic cup adorned with a smiley face. Outdoor seating is limited to a few picnic tables (the Bridgeport location is bigger), but it’s a great alternative to Big Star if you don’t want to worry about neighboring tables reenacting LMFAO’s music video for "Shots."
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Cesca's Margarita Bar and Grill
Cescas’ massive (and busy) patio feels like a friend’s backyard bash if that same friend also had a never-ending supply of margaritas. This casual Mexican spot in Andersonville has over 30 iterations of the cocktail, which include flavors like blue curaçao and tamarind, and a few "frozen only" varieties. If you can’t decide, go with the specialty Dulce Escorpion mezcal margarita, a sweet and smoky frozen drink with mango puree and chamoy.
Tzuco in River North works well for a pricey Mexican meal if you’re in the area. But a better strategy is to stop by for a Happy Hour margarita at the large (and usually not crowded) bar. The $10 Tzuco Margarita is expertly balanced, with just enough bite from the tequila and added freshness from crushed cucumber. For something a little more off the beaten Happy Hour menu, the chile-dusted pibil with almond, cumin, and guajillo is perfectly savory, but still fruity enough so that you don’t feel like you consumed an entire dinner in a rocks glass.
This Mexican restaurant in the West Loop always feels like a party. Music blasts through the speakers, and tables are packed full of people about to embark on a night of bar-hopping. Bar Takito is perfect for kicking things off with a gigantic margarita tower. They have summery options like watermelon and mango, but our favorite is the coconut margarita which is creamy, just a little peppery, and comes with a sugar-lined rim.
photo credit: Alex Hupp
With its airy, plant-filled interior, Lonesome Rose has the atmosphere of a relaxed SoCal spot minus being surrounded by endless traffic or the possibility of seeing Ben Affleck walking his dog. There’s plenty of table seating if you’ve come to tackle a full Tex-Mex meal, but popping in just for a good, decently-priced margarita is something we highly endorse. Come for their simple yet satisfying house margarita, or upgrade to a spicy one for just a dollar more. And during Happy Hour, their frozen margarita is only $6 and is the delicious adult Slurpee that you wish they had at your local 7/11.
photo credit: Veda Kilaru
La Josie can be a shitshow, but it’s our shitshow. Here, you are required to shout-talk and you won’t be able to see your drink after 9pm when the lights go from dim to, "Wait, who are you?" And the drinks are good. There’s only one tequila margarita on the menu which leans a little sweet with the addition of orange curaçao, but is balanced by the soft pretzel-style rock salt rimming the glass. There’s also a long list of margarita-adjacent cocktails, like the trompibueno which tastes like you’re drinking a liquified al pastor taco in the best way.
photo credit: Veda Kilaru
With over 14 different margaritas, Del Toro in Pilsen has a different version for each zodiac sign, plus the two runner-ups that didn’t make the final roster. This relaxed Mexican spot covers a wide range, from basic pineapple margaritas to concoctions like the sweet and spicy Tamarindo made with tamarind, habanero syrup, and Squirt. Come with friends to enjoy the summer breeze on their large patio, or grab a seat inside if the humidity makes you feel like a human flytrap. Just make sure you’re aware of their "no baseball caps" policy on Fridays and Saturdays.
At Senoritas Cantina in Pilsen, you won’t find intricate drinks made with ice harvested from a thousand-year-old iceberg or tequila infused with unicorn tears. Instead, this lively Mexican restaurant is perfect for when you just want a straightforward margarita served in an actual margarita glass. They’re frozen or on the rocks, and come in seven basic flavors. But their simplicity lets the refreshing balance of sweet, sour, and tequila flavor shine.
photo credit: Emma McGregor
Don Bucio's Taqueria
The margaritas at this plant-based Logan Square restaurant are of the standard, chuggable variety. So why are they on this list? The $25 late-night Happy Hour pitchers are a great deal. The margaritas are light and eminently drinkable—a session margarita, if you will. There’s also a unique and tasty non-Happy Hour seasonal option that, despite including radish bitters, does not taste like a salad.
Cesar's Killer Margaritas
If you’ve ever found yourself at the Lakeview Mariano's, chances are you unknowingly zoomed past Cesar’s Killer Margaritas. But this busy Mexican place is worth knowing about. They have a great selection of margaritas and a relaxing sidewalk patio perfect for people-watching. Margaritas here come in all sorts of fruity varieties, like guava, banana, and chamoy, and can be customized with salt, chile salt, or sugar on the rims. And though these lean a little sweet, they are surprisingly strong. Don’t plan on making clear-headed grocery decisions at Mariano’s afterward.
Tuco & Blondie
What sets Tuco and Blondie’s margaritas apart is simple: egg white. The margaritas at this Lincoln Park Mexican spot have a unique foaminess folded in with the usual tart and sweet flavors, all for just $10. For something stronger, get the Grande Margarita which comes with an inverted Coronarita thrown into it. The beer makes this larger drink perfect for an afternoon of sipping as you try to improve your Vitamin D levels on their cute patio. But if it randomly rains (because that’s how Chicago works) their interior full of neon lights and colorful seating captures the summery atmosphere while keeping you dry.