Kelly Johnson, general manager at Molly’s La Casita, discusses the restaurant’s colorful history and
Molly’s famous margarita
Story by Mary B. Sellers | Photos by Casey Hilder
Drink | April 2015
The margarita is A household name. It can be enjoyed in most every type of situation, from a casual Tuesday evening with friends to a dressier event.
The easiness, the price and the undeniable combination of tantalizing ingredients, whether “original” or altered by fruit flavors, on the rocks or frozen, all assist in the margarita’s continuing marketability to the public. And why not? It’s fun, it’s Tequila-based and it’s versatile.
Molly’s Margarita Drink-alike
A one-gallon bucket contains:
3 liters of tequila
1 liter of Bols triple sec
Margarita mix of choice
Cold water to taste
Molly’s La Casita Mexican restaurant in Midtown Memphis has provided the public with Tex-Mex and award-winning margaritas for 32 years.
“Our margaritas were created by a past bartender, San Billings, who was our service bartender long before the bar side was added to Molly’s. Our margaritas were so strong that the owner, Robert Chapman, had San cut back on the amount of tequila because customers were literally on the floor,” explains Kelly Johnson, the general manager at Molly’s.
The La Casita margarita is unique in regard to its blend of sweet and sour. This blend is entirely their own. “I used to sell the mix, but because of rising costs it just became impossible to sell at a profit. The beauty of the sweet and sour is that it masks the tequila taste, causing some customers to think we don’t put much liquor in our margaritas. I always tell them to hang on and they will notice. They always do, and it has become somewhat of a joke shared between customers and the wait staff and managers,” Johnson says.
And who is the actual Molly? Robert Chapman, her “first true customer,” according to Johnson, met Molly in 1974, when the restaurant had just opened at its older location at 1910 Lamar Avenue. And now, Jamie Chapman, Robert Chapman’s wife and business partner, is the sole owner of the restaurant. In 2010, after Robert’s passing, she took over its ownership.
Johnson explains that they make their famed margaritas in five gallon buckets, including five liters of alcohol and their secret sweet and sour mix. “The ratio is a secret, but five liters to five gallons gives you an idea of why our margarita is so strong,” Johnson says.
Johnson and her brother worked for Molly at the older location during their high school years, and even her mother, along with her little brother and sister, have worked at the current location at times. It’s truly a family affair. “I have been fortunate to maintain a staff of long term employees,” The average length of employment in the kitchen is 15 years, and on the floor (wait staff and bar staff) is also a 15 year average with many having more than 15 years under their belt!”
When asked about Molly’s location in Memphis, Johnson claims that it’s a “Mexican food paradise”, and that the restaurant and its staff have made and kept a long list of relationships with their customers and staff throughout the past 32 years. Part of these long-lasting relationships is due to the pleasant atmosphere Molly’s strives to create for both their customers and employees. “Many customers have come back to us saying, ‘We kinda forgot about Molly’s since we live so far out, but coming to Overton Square reminded us of good times at Molly’s and we’re glad to be back.’”