101 CANTINA

Where: 133 S.E. Mizner Blvd, 561/409-2320

The lowdown: The second of three statewide Cantinas has a well-earned reputation as a haven for college students—appropriate given that the other locations are in Gainesville and Tallahassee. At night, dance fever consumes locals—especially on “Techno Tuesday,” when Cantina 101 is alive with flashing lights, the occasional glow stick and a nonstop, pulse-pounding mix of club music.

But don’t let the late-night scene cast Cantina as nothing more than a party-til-you-drop spot. If you’re a professional looking for a killer margarita after a tough day at the office, check out happy hour here. The vibe is low-key by comparison but still energetic, with a good mix of Top 40 hits playing in the background.

The nightly and 4 to 7 p.m. specials, meanwhile, are off the charts—depending on the day of the week and time of day, we’re talking everything from $4 select margaritas (which typically run $7 to $11), $5 Mojitos, as well as three-for-one well drinks—and even free shots of tequila every hour starting at 11:01 a.m. on Sundays.

Enjoy half-off appetizers during happy hour, such as the trio of salsa, guacamole and queso with a big basket of crispy tortilla chips. You’ll devour every single chip—and when you do, don't be afraid to ask for more. On Tuesdays, tacos are buy two, get one free. Go for the classic chicken, beef or pork or be daring with the Cheech (Korean marinated steak, Korean salsa roja, cilantro-lime relish, romaine, cabbage and sesame-chili dressing) or Desperado (adobe-marinated grilled chicken, crushed pineapple, salsa verde, red onions and scallions). On Thursdays, the signature chicken quesadilla goes for just $5.

The intangibles: 101 Cantina used to be The Mexican, and parts of it have remained intact, like the graffiti mural that takes up the entire side wall, the VW bug extending from the kitchen, and the open-air bar you can access from both the restaurant and the outside patio.

The bartenders are friendly and attentive, the kitchen is accommodating to substitutions, and the atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. It’s a large space, but the square shape makes it feel more intimate.

Hours: 101 Cantina opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sunday; the party rolls until 2 a.m. every night.

Website: 101cantina.com/boca-raton.html