The origin of the margarita is as cloudy as the lime juice in it. Hussong’s in Ensenada, Mexico — founded in 1880 by German immigrant Johan Hussong — lays one of at least eight claims to the tequila cocktail. (In 1941, its story goes, bartender Don Carlos Orozco mixed tequila, Damiana and lime for the first known time and served it over ice in a salt-rimmed glass to Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German ambassador to Mexico.)
What’s clear is that America’s first Hussong’s Cantina and Taqueria opened in January at Mandalay Place, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South. And one lesson the Titan Nightlife Group took from the original establishment is that people who hang out long enough in a margarita bar get hungry. (Since it had no kitchen, the first Hussong’s provided a brisk business to a small hotel next door, which passed its food through a window.)
Titan President Scott Frost envisioned for his Hussong’s what he calls "a very authentic, non-gringo Mexican menu." He hired executive chef Noe Alcala, formerly of Pink Taco and Dos Caminos, to conjure dishes prepared with cotija and goat cheeses.
"You will not find one American cheese on our menu," Frost says. "No melted cheddar or Monterey Jack."
Fish and lobster also are heavily represented, since Ensenada is a seaport.
"The idea was to bring a very authentic Mexican fare that represented the uniqueness of Baja," Frost says.
The decor takes its lead from the menu’s authenticity. It’s an exact replica of the first Hussong’s, down to a giant deer head.
"But we got ours on eBay," Frost says.
The eatery, which seats 150, is open 11 a.m.-midnight daily. Reservations are recommended only for parties of more than eight.
Signature dish: Dorado lobster taco, $15.95
Starters: Elote plazero, $4.95; sopes, $7.95; queso fundido, $6.95
Soups and salads: Shrimp stuffed fried avocado salad, $11.95; pozole soup, $6.95; arugula chicken salad, $11.95
Entrees: Burrito mojado, $14.95; Extreme Nachos, $12.95; enchilada suizas, $14.95
Desserts: Sopapillas, $5.95; choco-flan, $5.95; fried ice cream, $5.95