Drink of the week:
A margarita at La Finca
, 3361 N. Elston.
The damage: $4.50.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? I have a handful of consistently reliable Mexican restaurants in my dining arsenal, from the relaxed Angela's Burrito Style to the more upscale Mundial Cocina Mestiza. But before last week, I never imagined that something as simple as a basket of chips could win my affection and repeat business. But that's how good the pillow-y, multi-layered, fried-to-perfection tortilla crisps at La Finca areónot to mention the smoky salsa you dip them into.
How it went down: After shoveling down about half the basket of chips, my thirst needing quenching and fast. La Finca has a surprisingly long drink list, with a decent selection of beer, wine and even classic libations like a Brandy Alexander. On this sub-zero evening, ordering an icy margarita on the rocks sounded pleasantly rebellious. My friend Jen ordered hers frozen, and we could hear the muffled buzz of a blender coming from the back; despite its sizable booze collection, La Finca has no bar, but rather a hidden space, which doubles as a private party room, where all the glorious mixing happens.
After a couple sips of La Finca's 'rita, I was convinced I had stumbled upon a total steal, suspecting my $4.50 bargain was packed with the finest golden agave juice. In fact, the drink was crafted with no-name tequila (literally, the waitress said it had no name), a bit of limona (a substitute for freshly squeezed lime juice) and a simple mix. Despite its less-than-fancy makings, the combo tasted perfectly strong, with a good but not overpowering bite and just the right balance of sweet and sour.
Would I want to become a regular? The most important lesson I took away from this experience was that it's not what the margarita is made of that matters, but who makes the margarita. The folks at La Finca clearly have the portions down pat, and the drink made for the perfect accent to my pile of fluffy rice and tender chicken enchiladas. The only area I found fault with was the decor, which included a smattering of colorful wall hangings, a random parrot figurine and light fixtures that look out of the early '80s. It hardly mattered, though; the loud crunching of chips distracted me from it all.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.