I love tacos, and in my opinion, there’s nothing not to love about a taco. A warm corn tortilla stuffed with meat, onions, and cilantro can hit so hard. Especially paired with chips and margaritas. I know I’m not alone in loving tacos because this town has upteen different Mexican restaurants and taco trucks. Just last year alone, six new spots for Mexican cuisine opened in Champaign-Urbana: Maize added a location in the Union, Encanto Restaurant in Downtown Urbana, Fernando’s Tacos truck opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Hacienda Agave debuted in North Champaign, Guerrero Azteca truck opened in a Piccadilly lot, and lastly, this one: Casa Margaritas Mexican Grill at The Crossing, which opened at the end of November.
Located between San Maru and Walnut Street Tea Company, that space has had some turnover in recent years, but it’s been a Mexican restaurant every iteration. Before Casa Margaritas, it was The Black Bull restaurant and before that, El Patio.
Inside, the dining room had bright green walls, and upbeat music played on the speakers. When my lunch date and I arrived, a server told us to sit at whatever table we wanted. Long tables in the center could fit a large party, and along the wall, there were colorful high-back booths.
As soon as we sat, a server brought free chips and salsa to the table along with cups of water, napkins, and utensils. Served warm, the corn chips were unsalted, which made me sad because I like a salty chip. Yes, there was salt on the table (and I dashed some on these), but that salt didn’t stick; it ricocheted right off. The chips were crispy and tasted fine otherwise, and the mild salsa with chopped onions and cilantro was good.
As the name of the restaurant is Casa Margaritas, it only made sense to order margaritas. I considered ordering a jumbo marg, but when I noticed that a half pitcher was only $1 more, I couldn’t resist, so I ordered the half pitcher of lime margarita ($9.99), served in the cutest miniature pitcher alongside salt-rimmed glasses with a wedge of lime. Serendipitously, both cups started with a little margarita on the rocks already in addition to the pitcher-ful — quite the deal for ten bucks.
The pitcher poured each of us two glasses and then some. I love a fresh margarita, and this one was great. It had a lovely lime sour and a subtle tequila flavor. The drink wasn’t too strong, and it went wonderfully with our lunch and gossip.
As an appetizer, we ordered the cheese dip ($4.50). Served in a little bowl, the queso was a homogenous white cheese that was basic but delicious. There were no peppers or chorizo crumbles or flecks of seasoning or anything but white cheese in this queso. It was straightforward liquid cheese, and we quite enjoyed it.
For my lunch, I ordered the speedy Gonzales ($8.99), a taco and enchilada with a side of rice or beans. I chose rice for my side, al pastor for the taco, and chicken for the enchilada. The pastor taco had flavorful pork with the occasional charred pineapple topped with onion and cilantro. Well seasoned, the filling was salty, porky, and delicious, kind of reminiscent of juicy bacon crumbles. I loved how much cilantro was on this taco and that the soft corn tortilla held everything nicely and didn’t break as I ate.
Served on a dangerously hot (and deceivingly normal looking) plate, the enchiladas and rice were yummy. Wrapped inside a tortilla, there was flavorful chicken plus yellow, red, and green peppers with softened onions. I loved the pulled chicken, and the enchilada sauce was really tasty.
My date ordered the lunch chimichanga ($9.99), which was a flour tortilla filled with meat, then deep fried and topped with cheese sauce. Served rice, beans, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo, it was a big lunch. When asked to choose between steak or chicken, my date chose steak, but the chimichanga came filled with ground beef actually, which was not as exciting as sliced steak but still tasty. The folded edges of the fried tortilla were crispy, but most of it was softened under a solid smothering of queso.
Finally, to be thorough, I also ordered the lunch cheese steak ($10.99). The flour tortilla was folded over like a taco and stuffed with a generous portion of grilled steak, sautéed onions, and that hot liquid cheese. It came with rice, beans, lettuce, sour cream, and pico de gallo, which was a lot of food for lunch. This dish was a hit. The steak had a satisfying char and wonderful savory flavor, and the onions tasted excellent. The fact that they put cheese on the inside and on top was cheese-overload but totally delicious. This special will probably become my go-to here.
Casa Margaritas served the speediest lunch I’ve had in a long time. Chips and waters immediately appeared before we even got our jackets off, and quickly after ordering lunch, the food was on the table. Even though the food was served quickly, our server didn’t rush us at all. He refilled our waters several times unprompted and brought out another basket of (unsalted) chips while we lingered over margaritas. With affordable prices and good service, this Mexican restaurant is a good new addition to The Crossing.
For more about the food, check out the restaurant’s website.
Casa Margaritas Mexican Grill
2506 Village Green Place
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.