M/Wed: 12PM-11PM, Thu 12PM-12AM, F-Sa 12PM-1:45AM, Su 12PM-12AM. Closed Tu
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Mario’s is one-of-a-kind in Trenton. From the outside, it looks like a typical Irish bar. Inside, it’s a Guatemalan-owned pub that serves American-stye “Mexican” food, more akin to a Chilies franchise than an authentic Mexican restaurant. But Mario’s makes Trenton’s best margaritas, and they have a charming secret back patio that is utterly wacky and totally perfect. What’s not to love?
If you are a fan of traditional Mexican cooking, Trenton is the place to go. What was once a town that was dominated by Guatemalan cuisine is now filling up with authentic Mexican restaurants. Between Tierra Maya, Casa Lupita, Chencha y Chole, or El Potrillo (just a few of our favorite local Mexican joints!), you’ll be sure to find the perfect place to experience bona fide Mexican food. But if you want to taste that genuine Mexican cuisine, don’t go to Mario’s.
Oh, the food here is pretty good, but it resembles a middle-America version of Mexican cooking more than any legitimate Mexican foodstuffs. You’ll find your fajitas and burgers, nachos, tacos, paellas, cheesesteaks, salads, wraps, fried calamari, clams in white sauce, quesadillas, and BBQ wings. Authentic, it’s not. But it is satisfying, and uses first-rate ingredients. The nachos are among the best in Trenton (for those who like nachos)–the ingredients were fresh and varied, though the cheese (genuine cheddar rather than cheeze-whiz) could have used a few more minutes to melt fully. Their burger was perfectly cooked with a nicely toasted bun–it is a really good burger. Though the fries it was served with were frozen, they were of a much higher quality than you usually get in town. The avocado salad was, as promised, iceberg lettuce with really fresh avocado and a few other toppings.
Where Mario’s excels, however, is in their margaritas. There actually aren’t a lot of margaritas in Trenton–many of the Mexican restaurants don’t have liquor licenses, and few other places offer them. The margaritas at Mario’s are really pleasing, filled with fresh ingredients and a healthy dose of booze, all impeccably balanced. The froth at the top is sublime, a peerless crown to a sublimely crafted drink. It is a splendid margarita.
Sure, you can drink that margarita in the bar, which is immaculately tidy and pleasant enough (though sometimes can get noisy if they have music)–but those who are in the know will ask if the back patio is free. You see, the owners of Mario’s also own a construction company, which is housed in a connected building in the back. If you walk through the kitchen hallway, you’ll end up in a tiny patio that connects the two buildings. Here, you’ll find Grecian-style planters filled with delicate flowers, assorted decorations, and two or three small tables where you can have an intimate al fresco meal. It’s a little cluttered and delightfully idiosyncratic, but it’s cute and totally private. The service is curiously formal (everything was brought out to us on a silver napkin-lined tray), though you’ll need to do some pointing to the menu for the waiter who may or may not speak English.
If you were thinking about driving up Route 1 to visit Chilies, maybe you should get your taste buds checked. If you’re dead set on it, I’d urge you to visit Mario’s instead. And if you’re looking for a relaxing, private drink in a quaint and quirky outdoor space, go to Mario’s, ask if the back patio is open, and order a margarita. You won’t regret it.