You remember the sullen, watery blended margarita of yore, the one you always regretted drinking all the way to the bottom. It lost its verve after about five minutes of super-cold, tart-sweet sips. The blended margarita at Glena’s is a different animal, altogether. Barmeister Lachlan Bray has perfected the retro version to coincide with Cinco de Mayo weekend and, depending on the day, the sunshiney afternoons that sometimes come to burn off SF’s fog.
Glena’s, which opened in February of this year, is the brick-and-mortar space that evolved out of Michael and Stephanie Gaines’ Mexican pop-up at Provender Coffee Shop in Potrero Hill. The Gaineses, formerly of Kin Khao and Plow, respectively, do a lovely job with simple Mexican tacos and larger platos like ceviche, tortas and pozole. Bray, also a Kin Khao alum (as well as a former bartender at Tosca) now offers a blended format for the classic margarita on the cocktail list. It differs from the 1980s-style drink in several key ways.
First, says restaurant manager Emmanuel Galvan, he starts with crushed ice, so that the blending process results in frothiness rather than sharp ice shards, and it stays frozen for much longer than drinks that start with bigger cubes. There’s no Cointreau or other sweet orange-toned liqueur whatsoever, just Tapatio Blanco Tequila, fresh lime, a splash of agave syrup and salt. It’s crisp, sweetly tart, and deeply refreshing, not to mention a great accompaniment to the homemade tacos.
During a quick lunch, I ordered a carne asada taco on a La Palma flour tortilla (with white onion and cilantro) and a grilled fish (tilapia) taco on a homemade corn tortilla (with cabbage, radish, cilantro, chipotle crema and jalapeño), both of which were spot-on in terms of size (small) and ingredient combinations (balanced). On the table is homemade salsa, mild and smoky-sweet, made with puya and arbol chiles.
For dessert, I tried another classic cocktail, the Paloma, whose sweetness comes from pink grapefruit juice, made sparkling by seltzer, with tequila, lime, and the irresistible chili-salt rim, which unifies the whole.
The space is small and casual, with a host at the front door who takes your order and gives you a number. Food and drinks come out fast, even when the restaurant is crowded, and staff are friendly, composed and knowledgeable about the menu.
The blended margarita will remain on the menu past the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, so if you can’t get there this weekend, no worries. Galvan says the retro classic is a permanent new feature on the cocktail list.
Glena’s Tacos & Margaritas
632 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107 [Map]
Ph: (415) 915-TACO (8226)
Hours: Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm; Sat, 11am-11pm
Price Range: $-$$ ($5-$6, tacos; $12, cocktails; $12-$16, platos)