Eat & Drink This Now: Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen

Careful: The choriqueso is hot! Served with fresh corn tortillas and an El Palomar margarita by the fire at Cha Cha’s. Photo by Greg Nagel

If you ever get bored, look up “February” and “national day,” and prepare to be shocked at the absurdity. For instance, Feb. 5 is National Shower With a Friend Day. The ninth? National Toothache Day. WTF? But goddam if I didn’t stumble upon National Margarita Day, which is Feb. 22. Imagine if you were to combine all of these things into one big party, one in which you can share a margarita with a homie in the shower after punching each other in the teeth.

Tacos, ready to take flight. Photo by Greg Nagel

If you were to visualize the perfect margarita, I’m pretty sure it would look something like the classic at Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen which is built on 100 percent blue agave tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and agave syrup, costing a mere $9 ($7 during happy hour). Specialty versions are only a buck-fifty more, such as the mango habanero, which has a touch of throat-tickling heat, and a seasonally available ruby-red grapefruit, which drinks like a zippy Paloma.

The classic and El Palomar margaritas at Cha Cha’s. Photo by Greg Nagel

For National Margarita Day, Cha Cha’s is bringing back one of my all-time favorites, the El Palomar, for happy hour prices all day. Hibiscus tea lends a pink hue to the drink, which is shaken with serrano chile, classic margarita ingredients and AsomBroso Blanco. The drink is bursting with raw citrus vibes. Speaking of vibes, ask your server to show you the AsomBroso bottle, which resembles a glass sex toy. Don’t be surprised when your server pops it on your table for you and your mates to admire.

Fireside cha-cha-chats with a tequila flight is a great way to stay warm. Photo by Greg Nagel

For bites, start off with a gooey queso fundido and the house corn tortillas. If your server offers to upgrade to a choriqueso (a combination of queso and chorizo), go for it. If you’re still sticking to a new year’s diet, go for the cool ahi aguachile or one of the several house ceviches.

The camera always eats first. Photo by Greg Nagel

Taco flights come in sets of three; $14 gets you one set, and $25 gets you a plate full of six. My table went for them all, and the unanimous winner was the short-rib taco with goat cheese and diced radish. The guajillo-braised beef acts like a mop filled with a rich chile-umami jus that refuses to get wrung out. The addition of goat cheese didn’t sound great on paper, but damn if it didn’t help me achieve a higher level of taco-consciousness.

Feb. 22 is also National Skip the Straw Day, so be sure to sip your margaritas from the salt-crusted rim!

Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen at the Birch Street Promenade, 110 W. Birch St., Ste. 7, Brea, (714) 255-1040; also at the Tustin/Irvine Marketplace, 13126 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 408-7819;

Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!

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