Gringos' is a good amigo 

Just south of Little Five Points, on a stretch of DeKalb Avenue lonely as a border town, sits Gringos'. It's a fenced-in cantina with unrestricted flavors that can be best described as colorful, but for more than just the greens, reds and golds that extend from the mixed decor to the mixed drinks.

To enjoy Gringos' collection of Tex-Mex recipes, you've got to be willing to go a little to the left of your basic taco/burrito/enchilada joint to satisfy your appetite. Luckily, Gringos' is equally -- if not moreso -- known for its margaritas. So even if you don't hunger for a new culinary experiment, you can still satisfy a thirst for a new experience.

To get a sense of Gringos' vibe, all you have to do is look at the walls covered in classic rock memorabilia with a handpicked CD changer to match. But to feel the vibe, look over the margarita menu, one of the most lauded and applauded in the city (by publications from CL to Atlanta Magazine).

The Gringos' secret -- to their sauces and spirits -- is simple: fresh ingredients, from the spices sometimes seen hanging to dry near the partially covered patio to the mango salsa to the fresh fruit that goes into the margaritas. To keep the food fresh they make it in small batches, occasionally running out of certain dishes. But they never run out of tequilas, whether you're there for sipping or slurping.

Higher-end tequilas such as Herradura, Patron and Don Julio are available, as well as Cuervo, Sauza or any number of others, to form the foundation of Gringos' slightly sweet margaritas, which draw an eclectic crowd of L5P, Candler and Inman Park residents. What is built on that foundation then comes in as many flavors and colors as the clientele. The staff is quick to tell you what most Gringos' margarita fans already know: These babies are strong!

Some people prefer their tequila almost straight, on the rocks with a splash of lime juice. But for others, all manner of additions to frozen margaritas -- from pureed mango to sangria to strawberries and Bailey's to an O.J., coconut and cream "Tequilabotomy" -- mask the potency until it's too late. Margaritas are $5.50 and up, but their combined kick makes the bill easier to pay; and if you have to pay for your excesses, Gringos' bathrooms are a trip, and MARTA's right down the street.

Gringos', 1238 DeKalb Ave., Dinner: Tues.-Thurs. and Sun. 5-9:30 p.m.; Sat. 5-10:30 p.m.; Brunch: Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Bar only: Sat.-Sun. 3-5 p.m. (chips and salsa available). 404-522-8666.

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