Watering hole may go north of the border again

Since 1892, Hussong's Cantina has been a stop for many travelers heading to Baja California. The family-run Ensenada, Mexico, institution boasts that it invented the first margarita in 1941. The Hussongs, German immigrants, claim they poured the first glass of the tequila drink to Margarita Henkel, the daughter of Germany's ambassador to Mexico.

Now, through the ingenuity of a Newport Beach lawyer and his business partner, the iconic bar might find its way to Orange County.

Jeffrey Marks, a corporate lawyer who lives in Newport Coast, and his partner, Scott Frost, recently purchased the licensing rights for three of Baja California's most-frequented watering holes: The Giggling Marlin Bar & Grille, Papas & Beer and Hussong's Cantina. Marks and Frost are only scouting Orange County for the latter, which debuted its first international location at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Jan. 21.

Although geographically San Diego is the closest Southern Californian city to the original Hussong's, Marks believes that Orange County could be the right location for the cantina's second opening on American soil.

"We think San Diego is too close to Ensenada," Marks said. "Orange County is a natural place for a second location. People know the name."

Although he'd love to narrow down the spot, he's still scouring the area for the right place. The ideal spot?

"Somewhere on PCH, near the water," Marks said.

For now, some of the contenders are Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.

In Ensenada, Hussong's is known for its tableside mariachi bands and good tequila. Marks and Frost plan to stay close to the origins of the brand. They are keeping the exterior and interior look of the cantina intact, keeping the name cohesive with the Ensenada location. However, due to a chance hire at Hussong's in Las Vegas, the bar might become synonymous with good food as well.

"We got very lucky," Marks said. "We got a good chef, Noe Alcola. We have a great menu and have received phenomenal reviews."

Due to the positive reception, Marks will have Alcola curate the menus for the future locations as well. The restaurant component, Mark said, could make the American transition even more successful.

The menu serves up all the traditional Mexican fare: tacos, tortas, burritos and, of course, margaritas. However, there are some ingredients that stick out on the Las Vegas menu. Bone marrow tacos? If guests think steak and chicken are too boring, they can up the stakes with meat selections such as beef cheek (cachete), tongue (lengua) or bone marrow.

For now, when Marks isn't exploring the O.C. for a potential new Hussong's, he is looking around Las Vegas for the first location for his other two Baja bars, Papas & Beer and the Giggling Marlin.

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