When you set sail to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant, you'll want to know if your culinary passport will send you to flavor paradise or if you're buying a ticket for disappointment. When you're "wastin' away again in Margaritaville," you should know what to eat and drink while you're there. So, we've checked out what customers say about the food and drink items in Margaritavilles across the U.S. to determine which menu items are best.
Jimmy Buffett opened his first Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, Florida, in 1985, eight years after the song by the same name hit the charts. The carefree, laid-back beachside lifestyle from his songs translates into the tropical setting of his restaurants (which are often connected to resorts). It's meant to be a place to escape from daily life, where you can leave your worries behind with food and a margarita or two.
Buffett created quite a legacy for himself in the food world. Every single menu item on our list has song tie-ins. Yes, Buffett sang a lot about food, but some of his food is also named after elements you'll find in his songs. Join us on a song-filled journey through Margaritaville's menu to help determine which dishes will help you kick back and enjoy life the Buffett way and which ones deserve to be left in the sand.
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Like Jimmy Buffett, who spent his childhood in the South, fried pickles can trace their start in the South, too –- to the Arkansas-based Duchess Drive-In. They've become a wildly popular appetizer since they first appeared in 1960. While they seem a little on the odd side, the crispy fried coating contrasts perfectly with the lip-smacking sour pickle inside, especially when this snack comes with a side of buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping (like the ones at Margaritaville do). Buffett sang about dill pickles in his song "Dreamsicle." So, the song likely inspired having a pickle appetizer on the menu. You'd think it would be hard to go wrong with fried pickles, but customers don't have a lot of good things to say about the chain's fried pickles.
A few people like the fried pickles. Unfortunately, most diners find them to be overly greasy and soggy, with a texture that makes them seem undercooked. Plus, they come with a subpar ranch dressing for dipping, some say. Even though pickles tend to have a lot of liquid, we've eaten plenty that aren't soggy. Perhaps they will improve in the future, but they're not a customer fave for now.
Tempura Battered Chicken Tenders
Jimmy Buffett sings about how simple things used to be in "Life is Just a Tire Swing," reminiscing about "blackberry pickin'" and "eating fried chicken" as a child. However, chicken tenders are the only fried chicken on his restaurant menus. Chicken tenders tend to be a safe, default dish to get when you're feeling unsure about what you want on the menu. There aren't too many places where it's a bad choice, but you may want to rethink ordering them here.
Margaritaville's chicken tenders come with a tempura coating, which is more common for fried fish or chicken in a Japanese restaurant. Strangely enough, some people even find them to taste more like fish than chicken (although it could be psychosomatic). They come with a side of french fries and dipping sauces (Buffalo, barbecue, or honey mustard).
Some people like them. However, most customers don't. Reviewers talk about them being fairly tasteless, greasy, and soggy. Some are even practically hollow inside, with more batter than chicken. The quality ranges from being uncooked to overcooked and hard as a rock inside, according to online comments. One Google reviewer called them a "pathetic rendering of a McNugget." We have a feeling this isn't the type of fried chicken Buffett remembers so fondly from childhood. We're also sensing that Margaritaville may not be the best place to get battered fried foods.
Lava Lava Shrimp
The name for the Lava Lava Shrimp appetizer at Margaritaville was inspired by Jimmy Buffett's tropical-island-style "Volcano" song. He sings, "You better lava me now or lava me not." The restaurant menu describes the Lava Lava Shrimp as "erupting with flavor." However, that eruption seems to be hit or miss with some people "lava-ing" it and other people not "lava-ing" it as much. Lava Lava Shrimp comes breaded and topped with Thai chili sauce and toasted sesame seeds. So, there is some heat to the dish that makes the name relevant.
Plenty of people find Lava Lava Shrimp to be tasty and are happy with their appetizer choice. However, some customers feel like the menu item needs more lava sauce and maybe more shrimp. Perhaps more sauce would make this appetizer a little more rave-worthy. One Google reviewer called them "wannabe lava shrimp." If you want to give them a try, go for it, but if you're a sauce person or think you might want more heat, you may want to ask for extra sauce so you can experience the flavor explosion the restaurant promises.
Jimmy's Jammin' Jambalaya
In his 1974 song "Life Is Just a Tire Swing," Jimmy Buffett says that, when he was a kid, "Jambalaya was the only thing I could sing." We're not quite sure what that means, but we're not surprised to see jambalaya on the Margaritaville menu. If you're not familiar with jambalaya, it is a spicy Creole rice and meat dish the French created to take the place of paella since ingredients like saffron were unavailable in Louisiana. At Margaritaville, the jambalaya contains Cajun-flavored rice, topped with pieces of Andouille sausage, shrimp, and chicken.
Unfortunately, the jambalaya is another hit-or-miss item. Many people find it to be absolutely delicious. One Google reviewer went as far as to call it the "best jambalaya I've had in a LONG time." Another Google reviewer said that "while it was edible, it was not pleasant." One complaint is that it's bland, which is not at all what you expect from Cajun food. Others say that the entrée is too small, leaving them to walk away hungry. It seems to come with less meat than some customers expect, turning it into a dish that's mainly rice. Perhaps it's a better selection to order if you'd prefer a Cajun dish that's less spicy and if you're planning to order other courses like appetizers, desserts, and drinks.
Crispy Coconut Shrimp
It's another day on the island, and "you can hear 'em on the coconut telegraph sayin' who did this and that." With Jimmy Buffet singing about coconuts in his "Coconut Telegraph" song and the restaurant chain having an island theme, coconuts had to make it to the menu somewhere other than just in the drinks.
Margaritaville has a crispy coconut shrimp entrée available. These jumbo shrimp are deep-fried with a coconut crust and come with pineapple aioli for dipping, creating a sweet piña-colada-type flavor experience. Included with this dish are french fries and, at some locations, cilantro lime coleslaw. The coconut shrimp are also available in the restaurant's sample platter. In addition, you can buy them frozen at select grocery stores by the box as part of a line of products from Margaritaville Foods.
If we were going to put something "on the coconut telegraph" about the crispy coconut shrimp dish at Margaritaville, we'd be torn about whether to recommend it or not. Some find the dish to be perfect and to have a great sauce. However, some naysayers have found these shrimp disappointing and greasy. One Google reviewer said it was "nothing special" and compared it to coconut shrimp "out of the frozen section of a grocery store." Some don't think there is enough coconut in the breading. We think that if you don't have huge expectations and are looking for a seafood entrée on the sweet side, it might be just fine.
"I don't know where I'm a gonna go when the volcano blow," sings Jimmy Buffett in his "Volcano" song. Luckily, the only volcano worries you'll have at Margaritaville come in the form of figuring out how you're going to conquer the whole mountain of Volcano Nachos. Even if you eat this appetizer as a meal, you might need some help plowing through to the bottom layer of this towering pile of chips and toppings because it's that huge. One customer joked on Facebook that they're big enough to "feed a small island nation." Another Google reviewer said that, even with three people attacking the Volcano Nachos, they still "couldn't finish all of the 3,500 calories on that enormous mountain of food." The layers of tortilla chips come smothered in chili and pico de gallo, which look a little like lava. Plus, it has plenty of house-made guacamole and sour cream, with loads of jalapeños for fiery heat.
Margaritaville is among the list of chain restaurants with exceptional nachos. The consensus is that the Volcano Nachos are extremely delicious and huge. The only complaints tend to happen when the volcano builders don't add enough ingredient layers to ramp up the flavor profile or if the ingredients aren't added in a strategic way to prevent sogginess. However, those seem to be exceptions, with most people enjoying their volcanic experience.
Grilled Fish Tacos
Not too many people sing about fish tacos, but Jimmy Buffett does in "Who Gets to Live Like This," which says, "There are ships on the horizon and a beach always nearby. Fish tacos on the table, no surfer can resist. How did I get this lucky?" It sounds like a dream life to us. Even if you don't live near a beach, you can still enjoy excellent grilled fish tacos at Margaritaville. These tacos don't just have a few pieces of fried cod. Instead, you get blackened, grilled mahi-mahi and shredded lettuce in a flour tortilla. What makes these tacos so good is all the sauces: habanero cream sauce, mango pico de gallo, and handmade guacamole. This entrée comes with a side of black beans and rice.
The fish tacos are fresh-tasting, fairly large, and leave most customers happy. One Google reviewer said, "It was very tasty plus seasoned to perfection." The fish are also nice and crispy, which adds to a positive textural experience. There have been a few complaints of there being too little fish in the tacos or the fish being reminiscent of school cafeteria food. However, these types of comments seem to be the exception rather than the rule. You may also want to know that the tacos contain cilantro so you can steer clear if you're not a fan of this distinctive herb. However, for the most part, the grilled fish tacos tend to be a safe bet at Margaritaville.
While Jimmy Buffett never sang about jerk salmon (are you surprised?), he did have lyrics about being a "restless jerk" in the song "Piece of Work." So, perhaps having jerk salmon on the menu is somewhat an ode to Buffett's self-proclaimed jerky nature. Or it could just be because jerk is a common flavoring in Jamaica, which fits with his tropical island theme. The jerk salmon at the restaurant includes a sweet Caribbean-inspired glaze. It currently comes served over sautéed spinach and rice, but there have been a few incarnations. We say "Caribbean-inspired" because some customers say it tastes more like barbecue sauce than jerk seasoning. However, if you don't order it expecting authentic jerk flavoring, we think you're going to like it.
After having the server suggest the jerk salmon entrée, one Google reviewer said, "Can I just say yum, best dish I've had here." Another Google reviewer went as far as to call it "the best salmon I've had," which is certainly high praise.
Blackberry Moonshine Margaritas
You would think that a place named after a song called "Margaritaville" would have more people talking about specific margaritas than they do. However, the one that people tend to comment about liking the most is the Blackberry Moonshine Margarita. Jimmy Buffet sings about "blackberry pickin'" as being part of his childhood memories in the song "Life Is Just a Tire Swing." In the song "Back Where I Come From," he also sings about moonshine: "We learned in Sunday school who made the sun shine through. I know who made the moonshine, too." We guess he was telling the truth about knowing who makes the moonshine since he's found some for his various moonshine-infused drinks and margaritas. The Blackberry Moonshine Margaritas start with a base of the restaurant's house margarita blend mixed over ice with 100-proof Ole Smoky White Lightnin' moonshine and 40-proof Ole Smoky Blackberry moonshine.
Customers tend to recommend the Blackberry Moonshine Margarita and use words like "fabulous" and "amazing" to describe it. One Google reviewer says it "tastes like lemonade" and that "it's dangerous lol." So, if you're trying to decide which margarita to order at Margaritaville, we suggest giving this one a try.
Conch shells show up in Jimmy Buffett's number called "A Salty Piece of Land," while he sings about conch salad in "Nothin' But a Breeze." While there aren't any actual conch fritters in his songs, Buffett's restaurant chain has managed to work them into the menu in a few locations that are closer to the coast. So, you'll find them at restaurants in Key West, Florida, and Orlando, Florida. If the Margaritaville you visit serves them, you will find them on the appetizer menu. They come with a lovely Cajun remoulade.
Diners call them "excellent" and quite tasty. One Google reviewer calls them "the best conch fritters I've had in YEARS!" Another Google reviewer ordered them just "to see if the conch fritters tasted anything like they do in the Bahamas." The verdict? "Surprisingly, they do!!!!" A couple of people have mentioned them being mildly chewy, but that's the nature of conch. The overwhelming majority of customers who get the conch fritters are glad they did.
Cheeseburger In Paradise
You'll be glad to know the Cheeseburger in Paradise is toward the top of the list of recommended items from Margaritaville. The "Cheeseburger in Paradise" that Buffett dreams about in his song when he's trying to eat vegetarian has "a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat ... medium-rare with Muenster'd be nice. Hheaven on earth with an onion slice." He also likes his with "lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57, and french-fried potatoes, big kosher pickle, and a cold draft beer." That sounds amazing, but it's not exactly what Margaritaville serves.
The restaurant has both regular- and double-sized Cheeseburgers in Paradise. Toppings include American cheese (not Muenster), lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles (no onion). However, since these burgers are made to order, you can ask for whatever extras you want, including Heinz 57 sauce. While the default side is french fries, you can substitute a salad, sweet potato waffle fries, or onion rings. You can order it gluten-free or beef-free (with turkey). It's even available as a veggie burger if you're trying "to amend [your] carnivorous habits." A few of these options do require a small upcharge.
Ordering the Cheeseburger in Paradise is a no-brainer since it's a beloved customer pick. A Google reviewer says, "The favorite 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' is an easy choice. It's not your average burger and it is surprisingly light. The fries are perfect with enough salt and crunch." While some complain about the price, they don't deny it's a good burger.
Key Lime Pie
Jimmy Buffett spent a lot of time in Key West. He told the Miami Herald in 2021 "I really found myself ... as a writer down there. ... It did as much for me as I hope I did it for them whether it's putting it on the map or using it as a source of material. ... I just enjoyed the way people live there because it really fed the creative soul." So, it's no surprise there's a Key lime pie on the Margaritaville dessert menu like there is in nearly every Key West restaurant. Oddly enough, with all that time spent in the Keys, Buffett never sang about Key lime pies. However, we can't forget about him singing about the "Lime in the Coconut."
Margaritaville's Key Lime pie has a graham cracker crust and comes with a whipped cream topping and a slice from a fresh Key lime. Despite looking ordinary, it tastes amazing.
We checked out what diners in Key West were saying about the Key lime pie to gauge its deliciousness. One Google reviewer said, "I can't even describe how amazing the Key lime pie was." Another Google reviewer said, "The homemade Key Lime Pie made the 100 (mile) trip from Key Largo all worth it." Luckily, you don't have to drive all the way to the Florida Keys to get one of Margaritaville's excellent Key lime pies since the dessert is available in most Margaritaville locations.
Caribbean Chicken Egg Rolls
Caribbean chicken egg rolls are the best menu item at Margaritaville. Jimmy Buffett never sang about egg rolls, but he did sing a lot about the Caribbean in his songs. In "One Particular Harbor," he sings fondly about spending time in the Caribbean. While in "Migration," he insists that he has a "Caribbean soul I can barely control."
Caribbean chicken egg rolls sound a little odd, but they are a multicultural food creation that works. The eggroll wrapper is the only Chinese thing about it. The appetizer seems a little on the Mexican side since the filling includes Oaxaca and Monterey Jack cheeses, red peppers, roasted corn, and onions with roast chicken. Plus, it comes with a chipotle aioli sauce for dipping. However, it also has Caribbean spices. So, it's a unique dish indeed.
If you ask your server for an appetizer recommendation, they'll likely tell you to try the egg rolls because they tend to make customers happy. A Google review explains that "the appeal was the spice, and they were pretty tasty with the sauce." Even if customers end up disappointed with other menu items, they tend to enjoy the eggrolls. So, if you're looking for a great appetizer, you'll want to give them a try.
Read the original article on Mashed.