It may be a bit off the beaten path, but it’s a glistening oasis, offering some of the best margaritas in town. It wasn’t always this way, however.
Before restaurateur Willie Martinez, owner of a number of Margarita’s Cafes on Long Island as well as The Cuban in Garden City, opened a Margarita’s in Freeport, at the Freeport Inn and Marina, the place was called the Patio.
In its prime, the Patio was a 3,000-square-foot, indoor/outdoor patio restaurant and lounge, alongside the Inn on South Main Street, about a mile from the Nautical Mile. The Patio closed three years ago, and Martinez jumped at the chance to grab the space.
“I always wanted to have a Margarita’s by the water,” he said on June 27, shortly after hosting the eatery’s grand-opening ribbon-cutting.
When Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Nautical Mile in 2012, businesses were devastated. Some closed permanently, but most restaurateurs fought hard to restore their eateries. By 2013, 90 percent of the Mile was back. Practically all reopened, except two — the Schooner and Bonito Hibachi. The Patio was eventually added to the list of waterfront restaurants that closed after Sandy.
Martinez immigrated to the United States in 1982, as 10-year-old, from Santiago, Cuba. He lived in Los Angeles for a brief time, and eventually settled in Westbury. He is married and has two teenage children. Owning a chain of restaurants has been a dream come true, he said. Reflecting on his childhood in Cuba, he said he vividly remembered his abuela (grandma) lovingly cooking for the family, despite the country’s food shortages. “It’s where I fell in love with cooking,” he said.
The Patio required tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of construction to transform the space into Margarita’s. Martinez had in mind a colorful Day of the Dead-themed eatery. There is plush, turquoise patio furniture on the stone deck, along with numerous tables with views of the water. The walls are adorned with portraits, including one of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. There is also a stage that hosts weekly performances of live bands and singers. Other nights, there is a full mariachi band.
Al Vila, the restaurant’s director of operations, said it has been open for the past three years, but the grand opening wasn’t held until last week, when it was “finally ready to make its debut.”
“Before today, it wasn’t the right time,” Martinez said. “We’re ready now, and I want everyone’s support.”
Martinez’s attorney, Oleh Dekajlo, said, “Margarita’s on the Water just works.”
“Were unique in what we do,” Martinez added, “from our food to our drinks. We have a secret recipe for our margaritas.”