Eat to the Latin beat at Cha Cha’s

The modern and inviting restaurant at The Market Place in Irvine is known for live Latin music, bold cuisine and its extended happy hour.

Tastemaker and owner of Cha Cha’s, Don Myers.

Taco Tuesday is so 2018. How about Taco and Tequila Tuesday? Or Enchilada Wednesday? Or house-made Sangria (and $4 tapas) Thursday?

Since Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen opened at The Market Place about a year and a half ago, it appears it has won over a solid fan base. Nightly specials and one of the most generous happy hours certainly help.

Live Latin music on Thursday and Friday brings in the crowds too, so you might want to make a reservation. Sombra Quieta, a young trio that fuses traditional rumba flamenca with South American sounds, plays here often.

You can take your meal in the modern/casual dining room or outside on a sunlit (but roof-covered) patio along the length of the restaurant. Dividing the two is a long, stylish bar stocked with a solid tequila and mezcal selection.

That’s the other thing Cha Cha’s is known for: margaritas. It has actually gotten shoutouts on some TV shows, like “Good Day L.A.” All of its libations are made with fresh-squeezed juices, house-made infusions and seasonal fruit.

As for the food, it “adapts the culinary heritage of Mexico and Latin America to a fresh, modern style,” is how the restaurant describes it.

A couple of its most popular menu items are the open-faced Short Rib Enchiladas, made with goat cheese, radish and epazote black beans, and the Nachos Cha Cha’s, which tidy up the classic appetizer. Each nacho chip has its own dollop of toppings (black beans, jalapeno escabeche, sour cream and cheese), so there are no naked chips at the bottom of the bowl.

But if you’re a fan of fries, then you should order these. The potatoes are topped with fresh garlic, herbs and smoky chipotle aioli.

I devoured a batch on the patio, an airy, sunlit space in the afternoon with heaters for cool nights.

Returning to Cha Cha’s Happy Hour, I called it one of the most generous in OC. The deals include $2 off appetizers, margaritas and signature cocktails, as well as a buck off glasses of wine and draft beers.

To break it down for you, a Mango-Habanero Margarita, made with Pueblo Viejo 100 percent Blue Agave, mango, fresh lime juice and habanero chili infusion, will cost you $8.50. Salud.