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And then there’s the story of Mariano Martinez, scion of the Cuellars, who in 1971 created the frozen margarita machine. At his Dallas restaurant Mariano’s, which serves heroic enchilada platters, Martinez birthed an empire off the slushy tequila drink, inventing an instant mix that has powered many a house party since. Nowadays Martinez disavows the frozen margarita—he prefers his fresh, with Cointreau. But Mariano’s pride in his creation and his cuisine—long dismissed by “serious” food critics as forgettable—remains.
“I’ve seen them all over the years,” he says. “They come in and do this upscale food.…Some of those places aren’t there anymore. My little old place I have? Forty years later, we’re still pumping the same food. Same phone number. Here I am plugging away at this little Tex-Mex peasant food that no one wanted to play with, that all the ivory tower critics made fun of. And with a drink that no one can resist.”
Mariano’s original frozen margarita machine is now in the Smithsonian. And Mexican food marches on, a combo plate of freedom giving indigestion to busybodies and authentistas everywhere.
Gustavo Arellano, the editor and restaurant critic of OC Weekly, writes the syndicated "Ask a Mexican!" column. He is the author, most recently, of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (Scribner).