- Facebook/El 7 Mares
Make your wildly outrageous claims about Memphis, but never call into question its Mexican food scene. Ivan Rabb, bless his heart, made the mistake on Twitter last week and was immediately reprimanded by all of us: the Summer loyalists, the Las Delicias enthusiasts, and all you lucky East Memphis folks with access to Chili Verde during the workday. There's been no report on whether he has found the Memphis taco truck of his dreams yet, but it's my pleasure to urge everyone, including Rabb, to "Hustle" over to El 7 Mares on Jackson.
El 7 Mares is, like many of our favorite Memphis Mexican haunts, stamped with the seal of approval from the one and only Jesus Himself. I know this because a large, non-threatening Jesus hangs above the bar, there to forgive and encourage you in your tequila-soaked endeavors.
My friend and I listened to our hearts and ordered a large pitcher of margaritas for $16. A margarita, though basic enough, is incredibly easy to screw up for so many places. (Now that's a Tweet thread I would enjoy reading, as I have an ever-growing list of "Wow, I Can't Believe They Botched the Marg" places.) El 7 Mares did no such thing: It was strong, not too sugary, and served with big straws, like the ones you get with Icees.
In keeping with the theme of forgiveness, I was dressed like some sort of mix between 1990s Janeane Garofalo and a dog wearing a sweater, and they still served me. Furthermore, a kid was playing basketball inside while we were there, and although loud noises while I'm dining are egregious sins anywhere else in the country, I am okay with the sound of dribbling in Memphis-area restaurants.
The menu at Mares is, of course, extensive. They have a seafood bucket of crab claws and crawfish for $28.99! They also have a huge selection of soups in varying sizes. Assuming Memphis has a winter this year, how delightful will this place be? And it was all so affordable. I'll pay top dollar for good soup but can always make room for a place that keeps it reasonable and tasty. For our friend Ivan Rabb, there is a drink on the menu called a California Root Beer, apparently one of the few drinks in this galaxy made with Galliano. We stuck with the margaritas, as I am past the age of drinking vanilla liqueurs. I also ordered a half-dozen tamales to split, and if those were any indication, I can't wait to go back and try more of what they have.
The restaurant also stays open late on Fridays and Saturdays. Beginning between 10 and 11 p.m., the place will have more of a club feel. They've got a full bar and a huge area for dancing, which is ideal for working off the tamales you just ate, unless you're me and the thought of public dancing is your personal idea of hell. El 7 Mares is actually one of several Mexican restaurants that stays open late as a nightclub, meaning there is a good chance one of your favorite spots does it, too. If you go out dancing, however, two things to remember: photographic evidence required and no squirrelly crap like putting grenadine in your Corona. Remember: Jesus is perched on that bar. Spiking a Corona with anything other than lime is crossing the line.
Finally, most telling of our city is that the good people of Memphis are quick to discuss cuisine but can't help punctuating the recommendation with, "... but it isn't in the greatest neighborhood." Fire Mexican food doesn't come from white people in Collierville, unless you guys know something I don't. Places like Summer and Jackson have some of the best eats because that's where the people that cook those delicious meals raise their families. If you want authentic atmosphere and amazing food, step outside the comfort zone and quit belittling a neighborhood for not having country club amenities. El 7 Mares had a handful of blue-collar folks in there, Spongebob on TV for the kids, and a friendly and fun staff. Kudos to everyone who read Rabb's tweet and suggested one of the awesome and family-owned joints without remarking on the perceived inadequacy of location. That's why we are on Twitter and all the non-food geeks are still slumming it on Yelp praising mediocrity.