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I Love This Bar: Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville — Las Vegas, NV

This is the first in a recurring series where, as the spirit moves us, we review bars and restaurants owned, endorsed, trademarked or frequented by the artists we cover. This week, Lindsay Eanet discusses marketing genius/pirate/calypso-country megastar Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville bar/restaurant chain.

With the exception of KISS, no artist has been able to turn their music into a brand quite like Jimmy Buffett. And you can’t find KISS-brand coconut shrimp at the grocery store.

Jimmy is the only musician I can think of with not one, but two restaurant chains, the Cheeseburger in Paradise burger joints and Margaritaville, a bar/café more tailor-made for warm and excessively touristy destinations (Key West, Grand Turk, etc.). So on my first trip to Las Vegas, where Buffett has a location in the Flamingo hotel and casino on the Strip, I had to check it out.

As with everything else on the Vegas strip, the restaurant exudes kitsch but then again, what else would you expect from a guy whose fans travel the country wearing shark heads and leis (not that we’re judging)? In no other dining and drinking establishment can lucky tourists sip on overpriced tropical beverages with a giant plastic manatee hanging above them.

One disappointment was the general lack of Buffett song-related puns, specifically with respect to the food. With the exception of the painfully obvious and overused “Cheeseburger In Paradise,” the menu reflects Margaritaville’s interchangability with any other beer-and-burger joint on the strip/island/resort town, and the food doesn’t exactly serve to set it apart. The quesadillas we had were pretty good, given a much-needed kick thanks to some nice roasted green peppers, but nothing about the food is particularly memorable. But food isn’t really the point here; you’re buying the Margaritaville image.

And oh, what an image it is. Every inch of the bar is plastered with island memorabilia, sea creature statues and signs with how many miles it is to Key West or Montego Bay or Lahaina (all which have Buffett restaurant locations, by the by). Buffett’s music is piped in through the speakers and screens showing “Parrothead TV,” footage of superfans from his shows across the country dancing and drinking and wearing beer cases on their heads, are placed throughout the bar (there’s still ESPN on TV for those who would rather watch the game).

As for the titular margs, they’re actually quite good, especially when flavored (the author recommends the peach-flavored mix, if that’s what you’re into), but nothing out of the ordinary. The names of the cocktails are more Buffett-esque, referencing songs outside the superhit realm including “Desdemona’s Building A Rocket Ship” (a raspberry margarita) and “Cuban Crime of Passion” (passionfruit, obviously). The “Who’s To Blame?” (the bar’s signature margarita featuring Buffett’s own line of tequila and margarita mix) is quite sweet and isn’t as strong as some, but it will suffice for a day of resort relaxation.

So does Margaritaville live up to its namesake song? Yes, in the sense that boiled shrimp and oiled tourists are plentiful, but no, in the sense that it’s a bit too chaotic and commercial to facilitate any wasting away.

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