The Place: Sol Cantina, 408 E. 31st St., 816-9431-8080.
The Hours: Monday to Friday, 3 to 7 p.m. On Saturdays, it's noon to 6 p.m.
The Vibe: With open garage doors letting in a light breeze and a large wooden patio in back, Sol Cantina is aiming for somewhere between beach bar and vacation shack. Surfboards and umbrellas hang from the ceiling and pinatas line the walls -- feeling like leftovers from a Cinco De Mayo celebration. "Day Drinkers Wanted," proclaims the back of the shirts worn by the all-female bar and waitstaff.
The crowd is split by the large rectangular bar that dominates the enclosed portion of the space. In front is the people that want to be seen. Women in tank tops and recently exiled fraternity brothers -- either through graduation or attrition from college. The patrons age and mellow the further you go into Sol Cantina.
It's not unusual to catch somebody still in scrubs fresh from a shift nearby on Hospital Hill. Yesterday, I watched as a gaggle of female co-workers in their forties took pictures in front of the Corona sign on the right wall. "That's my bikini," joked one woman, pointing to the painting of a two-piece bathing suit in front of a beach scene.
The Food: Big enough to feed a table of three or four, the Muchos Nachos ($2.99) with chicken ($1.99 extra, $2.49 for steak) are what to order at Sol Cantina. The chicken is slightly blackened with a good pepper kick. The chips are thin and crispy. The white queso tends to drip to the bottom of the tray, so dig down to scoop some up when you first start eating.
The Sunset Rolls ($3.99) are a better version of the Southwestern Egg Rolls at Chili's, plus you avoid the shame of having to go to Chili's. The Chipotle ranch dipping sauce that accompanies the fried pockets of chicken and black bean and corn salsa is fatteningly good.
The Drinks: Pacifico, Corona Lite and Modelo Especial are $2.50. Bud Select is $2.25. A gold lime, rapsberry or strawberry margarita (on the rocks or frozen) is $3.25. A Sangarita Swirl is $3.50 and a Red Bull Margarita is $3.75. A Bacardi or Grand Marnier floater is another $2. It wouldn't be happy hour without shots -- the Best Noche (night) Ever with Red Bull ($3), Washington Apple ($2.50) and Cherry Cheesecake ($2.50).
The Plan: The Sol Cantina drink menu is a guide to where you want to sit. Doing shots? Snag a seat in front by the open garage doors, so you can see everybody that walks in the door and decide if you want them to join you for a shot. The back half of the bar is where the non-drinkers and bottled beer crowd sits at high boy tables. There are usually open tables mid-week, but it's largely weather dependent. While it's not quite the ocean, the breeze that blows through the open bar (and the mound of chicken nachos) on a sunny day makes it worth sharing the space with a few meatheads.