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November 3, 2009

Sipping cocktails at the new Azul 17

a mojito and margarita at azul 17

When I first heard a high-end Mexican restaurant and lounge named Azul 17 had opened in Columbia, I couldn't help but scratch my head.

A fancy lounge? In a strip mall? In Columbia?

Yes. And guess what? It's a hit. 

When Amie and I paid Azul 17 a visit on a recent Saturday night, there was barely a seat left in the place. The line for tables was nearly out the door at 8:30 p.m. We bee-lined for the bar area, and snagged the last two open seats.

Azul 17 is split into two sections -- a long, semi-narrow dining room and a square-shaped adjacent bar.

Owners Julio and Lily Soto must have pulled out all the stops: The chairs in the bar appeared to be made of white leather and the back-lit bar glowed different colors over the course of the night, while Latin house music pumped through the speakers. I don't think I've ever seen a trendier spot in Columbia.

Azul 17's only stumble decor-wise were the long white drapes, which covered the windows and looked tacky from the outside.

As stylish as a high-end lounge might be, substance is always going to win out in the end. Snazzy decor and fancy furniture don't trump good service and well-made drinks. And Azul 17 came through ...

Azul 17's drink menu is a whopping six pages, complete with a page-long introduction which dispels tequila myths and describes the proper way to drink tequila.

There are plenty to practice on, too: I counted more than 100 different tequilas on their list. Add to that the 17 signature cocktails, 17 signature margaritas, 38 wines and 30-some beers and you've got oodles of options.

I opted for La Raspa ($11), a fiery margarita made with Milagro Silver tequila and lulo nectar and garnished with a Serrano pepper boat and fresh lime with a Chile pequin rim.

Believe it or not, the margarita wasn't that peppery -- until I got greedy and nibbled at the end of the Serrano pepper. That set the drink (and my mouth) ablaze. I kept sipping to cool down my mouth, but the margarita only made it hotter. Yowsa!

Amie ordered a Latin-American classic: The mojito ($9). Served in a tall, thin glass with plenty of fresh lime and Bacardi rum, Azul 17's mojito was crisp and citrusy -- but not worth $9.

It's good to see a high-end lounge prospering in a recession, in a strip mall, in the suburbs. It's clear the Sotos know their market well. Azul 17 has a bright future ahead of it. 

(Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:09 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Well, you beat me there Sam! (not hard to do, lately).. i am meeting there tonite, thanks for the heads up on the drinks, yours sounds awesome (the hotter the better in my book). we are also going to check out the tapas.. heard the guac was great too.

I ate lunch there a few weeks ago. It was delish. The bar looked quite swanky if it weren't in the middle of a strip mall and a location I would have to drive to-- I would def go there for happy hour. Another table of diners were strangely fascinated with the wallpaper by the register and I overheard it was ordered specially from Italy. Who knew?!

Wallpaper from Italy? Aren't we in a recession?

Hey, well they opened a Restararaunt =) during a Recession, so why not have Italian Wallpaper.. i admire their confidence during these trying times..

Just back from Azul 17 tonite, it was stellar.. Great tequila drink-La Raspa (i went with Sam's pick cause i love peppery), the best i have ever had! My friend had one that had fig and chili pequin rim, so sweet n sour, she loved it too. All of the booths were taken, on a Tuesday night at 7:30! The decor is sleek and interesting, colored glass panes and artwork with cool white leather chairs and barstools. Food was very good, but the drinks and ambiance make the place. Thanks for telling us about it Sam!

Another place serving Mojitos. That´s fine for sure! But $ 9? Maybe too expensive!

The pepper margarita reminds me of an experience at Nacho mamas. For months I'd go every time and see some spicy hot margarita with peppers and tabasco and stuff like that and I'd ask for it. They were always out of something and I never got it. Finally I asked if it actually existed and the girl said that she never had given one out. A month later I go back and it's not on the menu. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

locust point man ~ Trust me.. this won't happen to you @ Azul 17. It's a "Tequila Lounge", seriously. The wait staff there spent 10 minutes discussing how and why their Tequila cocktails differ from any we've ever had anywhere.. and she was right. It was peppery, but subtle, i can't give it justice in written words.. but i doubt it will disappear, along with the 16 other specialized Tequila drinks on their menu..try it sometime ........

Just went there last night for happy hour. From 4 PM - 7 PM, you can get $2 tacos and $5 margaritas and mojitos. Pretty cool place. I would definitely go back but probably just for happy hour, not to pay full price! Hard to believe its location.

I have to check other meals as well in this restaurant.

Your blog is very informative.This is obviously one great post.i keep on reading articles from here.thanks for sharing..

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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