‘The Most Imitated Restaurant in America’

Mariano’s Hacienda celebrates 50th anniversary of frozen margarita machine

If there were ever a perfect time to celebrate with a frozen margarita, May 11 would be the day.

On that Taco Tuesday, Mariano Martinez will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his invention of the frozen margarita machine, which revolutionized the American restaurant industry.

The original Mariano’s Hacienda location – also 50 years old in May – was on Greenville Avenue, just a stone’s throw from the Park Cities.

It featured a cantina bar section packed with Village Apartment swinging singles, SMU students, flight attendants, Dallas Cowboys, and local media personalities.

Our frozen margarita machine was duplicated throughout the nation, and it ushered in the National Drink of Baby Boomers.

Mariano Martinez

As restaurant chains like Chili’s, Applebee’s, and Steak & Ale followed suit and rolled out frozen margarita machines to thirsty Americans in all 50 states, the tequila-based concoction became the national drink of choice.

Suddenly all restaurants and mom-and-pop cafes could serve tasty, consistent frozen margaritas for a reasonable price without hiring a bartender. For many smaller restaurants, the margarita was the difference between breaking even and making a profit.

After 35 good years in the Old Town Village on Greenville Avenue, Mariano’s moved to a larger location at 6300 Skillman Street at Larmada Street 15 years ago, and business never skipped a beat.

“We changed a lot of things,” Martinez said. “Our frozen margarita machine was duplicated throughout the nation, and it ushered in the National Drink of Baby Boomers. Mariano’s became the most imitated restaurant in America. The original margarita machine is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. That invention changed our nation’s culture forever.”

From Left: Mariano and Wanda Martinez with the original frozen margarita machine.

Seventeen years ago, Martinez and his wife, Wanda, moved from their large East Dallas compound near White Rock Lake to a larger home in the heart of Highland Park.

After six years of searching, they found a 1914 home designed by Lang and Witchell, a prominent architectural firm in Dallas from 1905 to 1942. The firm created masterpieces such as Highland Park’s Town Hall and the State Fair Music Hall. The Highland Park home was built while SMU was being constructed, and it used the same bricks as SMU. Since 1914 the Martinezes are the second family to live there. Jessie Lee Johnson’s family, including son Searcy, were the original owners.

“We loved living in East Dallas, but we made the move in order to have the emergency services that the Town of Highland Park is known for,” Martinez said. “As we get older, a quick paramedic response time becomes more and more important to us. Our bedroom is upstairs, so we also added an elevator.”

For Mariano and Wanda Martinez to take a moment to celebrate the golden anniversary of their restaurant and the invention of the frozen margarita machine will keep them busy for a while.

But they need to conserve their energy because, in a few months, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary – most likely with a couple of margaritas and a well-deserved toast to half a century of health, happiness, and blue agave.

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