Mexican-restaurant design elements make for a colorful ambiance. The expansive 366-seat dining room includes a long bar and two private rooms. And what authentic cantina would be complete without a barrage of giant TV screens and blaring club music? The patio will get you away from the TVs, but speakers also trumpet the tunes outside (and on one visit meshed discordantly with better songs floating in from Yard House next door).
The cerveza selection is the strongest incentive for coming here. Bottled beers from Mexico, Europe, and South/Central America are $5; domestic brews including Key West Ale and Yuengling go for $4. Modelo Especial and Negro Modelo are on draft ($5), as are Blue Moon ($5) and Strong Bow ($6).
Those who insist on wine with their refried beans can choose from 14 each of reds and whites from familiar vintners such as Woodbridge, Napa Cellars, and Ravenswood. Carmine's house wines are also available (and soon you'll be able to drink the same label at CG Burgers, Giardini's latest Merrick Park venture).
The "spicy margarita" gets its name from a salt-and-chili-powdered rim, although a substitute jalapeño salt rim spiked the lips in a similar vein. The Don Julio tequila-based cocktail was tasty if a bit light on the Don ($8 for regular, $12 for large). Other signature drinks include a Rioja-Cognac-Cointreau sangria and "sweet & sour tequila" with Chambord and sour mix — which surely has to taste better than it sounds.
And as the "Tequila Bar" part of the moniker indicates, there's plenty of blue agave being poured straight. Shots of name-brand blanco, reposado, and añejo go for $9 to $11 each.
Cinco Cantina & Tequila Bar really is an ideal spot to gather for Cinco de Mayo. It's the other days of the year I'm not so sure about.