A bad margarita is a truly tragic thing. The neon hue is reminiscent of the sickest of sick-day tissues. The unhappy taste is a doomed marriage of saccharine sweet and artificial acidity, overriding the smoky burn of agave. It is neither refreshing nor is it sophisticated.
But that’s miles, eons, light years away from what you’ll get at Sonny’s.
Located in the Old Port and bordering Tommy’s Park, Sonny’s is one of my go-to spots for cocktails and appetizers. While the drinks at Sonny’s are generally top notch, the best concoctions are the tequila drinks, including, of course, its impeccable classic margarita.
Made with silver tequila, fresh lime, simple syrup and a salted rim (served on the rocks, like it should be), it’s a perfect balance of flavors. It hits just the right pleasure center in my brain — the one that says, “chill out, the work day’s over.”
Should you get bored with the traditional option, Sonny’s also has several inventive plays on the margarita, including spicy cucumber, chili pineapple and hot pepper versions. As you might expect, spice plays nicely with tequila and fruit.
If you happen to be more of a gin person, there are some excellent botanical swills to sample, too. The cucumber gimlet is perfect sipping for hot days (snag a seat on the patio) and the Dawn of the Dead is a mind-numbingly good option for when you want to get zombie-level tipsy.
The food at Sonny’s is great, too, albeit a bit on the greasy side. Not that I’m complaining, since liquor and fat go together like tequila and lime. Lately, I’ve been digging the mushroom fundido, which comes served in a little skillet and includes artery-clogging levels of hot cheese and veggies.
Another awesome thing about Sonny’s is that it’s one of those vastly underrated brunch spots. While there are lines out the door at Hot Suppa, I never have trouble getting a booth at Sonny’s. And the menu is equally good — think arepas Benedict, spicy chiles rellenos and chorizo empanadas. Contrasted with the Art Nouveau décor, the Latin American-inspired menu is a bit of a trip, but I don’t mind that one bit. After a spicy strawberry margarita or two, who would?
WHERE: 83 Exchange St., Portland
HOURS: Open daily until 1 a.m. Serving food from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 4 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Open for brunch Saturday, Sunday and Monday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
AMENITIES: Patio seating, central location, groovy décor, happy hour specials, bar seating, booths, table seating, back room for larger groups, comfy couches for lounging.
BOTTOM LINE: Latin American flavors dominate the menu in this Art Nouveau-inspired Old Port restaurant. The cocktail list is the star of the show, but there’s a good selection of wine and beer, too. Good for happy hour, brunch, dinner and late-night snacks.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes