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HOLIDAY DINING : In Cinco With the Festivities


Mariachis, pinatas, margaritas--Cinco de Mayo unfolds at Orange County restaurants this weekend. Among the festivities:

Cano's in Newport Beach hosts a Sunday "Fiesta Grande" beginning at 3 p.m. and continuing until closing. The food fair will accent a culinary journey through Mexico's regional cuisines, with a dessert bar dominated by a 5-foot-long celebration cake and drink specials from a specialty tequila bar and Bohemia beer bar. And would you believe margarita popsicles and Cuervo Gold jello shots? There's no cover; you pay as you sip and sample, accompanied by a live mariachi band. Raffle prizes include round-trip air fare to Cabo San Lucas. The restaurant is at 2241 W. Coast Highway. (714) 631-1381.

The Hacienda in Santa Ana will dedicate the holiday to a fund-raiser for Self-Esteem, a middle-school program in the Santa Ana School District. The restaurant promises live music and "massive flowers and food everywhere" for the 11 a.m.-3 p.m. champagne brunch. Chef Chuy's buffet includes a beef and chicken taco bar with condiments, chili rellenos, fajitas, cheese enchiladas, chalupas, ham, turkey, roast beef and an omelet bar. Door prizes include a round-trip for two to Mazatlan, with a three-night stay at the Westin Camino Real. Tickets are $8.95 for adults (of which $2 will go to the fund) and $3.95 for children. 1725 College Ave. (714) 558-1304.

Weekend festivities begin Friday at El Torito Grill in Costa Mesa. With an auxiliary tent erected in the Noguchi Sculpture Gardens behind the restaurant, El Torito will stage a barbecue a la Mexicana, with charbroiled chicken or steak tacos for 50 cents apiece. Mariachis will play Friday and Saturday night and for Sunday brunch. There will be balloon drops all weekend, with a grand prize of a trip for two to Mexico. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2:30 Sunday, after which the barbecue will resume until sunset. The restaurant is at 633 Anton Blvd. (714) 594-6917.

Acapulco Mexican restaurants have already begun their "Countdown to Cinco," offering different specials each day. On Sunday, there will be special drink prices all day, and each restaurant will feature its own holiday decor and entertainment. Acapulco restaurants are at 1262 S.E. Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 754-6528; 1410 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 956-7380; 1609 E. Imperial Highway, Brea, (714) 529-6666; 12101 Valley View, Garden Grove, (714), 893-7513; 30100 Town Center Drive, Suites Y and Z, Laguna Niguel, (714) 495-3372; and El Paso Cantina at 1565 Adams St., Costa Mesa, (714) 241-0123.

Caliente in Irvine starts its three-day celebration on Friday, with mariachis, Mexican dancers and food booths throughout the cantina and patio. Additional festivities and entertainment will be presented during the Sunday buffet brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Price is $10.95 for adults; half for kids under 6. Caliente is at 1910 Main St. (714) 975-1220.

Tia Juana's Long Bar & Mexican Cafe in Irvine also will stretch its fiesta into three days. Mariachis will play Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m., and KIK-FM will broadcast from the bar and cafe on Friday and Saturday. The Bud Girls will be on hand from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, and the Tecate Girls from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday. A rock 'n' roll band, the Bel Airs, will play Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. On Sunday, Tia Juana's will sponsor 5-K and 2-K runs. A fee of $22 covers your entry, the run through the streets of Irvine, T-shirt and brunch. Mariachis will play from 12 to 4 p.m. and in the evening, the house band, Alaturas, will perform. During all the festivities, prizes will be given away, including a weekend for two at Rancho Bernardo. The address: 14988 Sand Canyon Ave. at Interstate 5. (714) 551-2998.

A festively decorated Sombrero Street in Santa Ana will serve a Sunday champagne brunch for $8.95. The buffet will display chorizo and eggs, chili colorado, beef and chicken fajitas, an omelet bar and more. It's from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 719 N. Main St. (714) 547-0922.

Moreno's in Orange will hold its primary celebration Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. The large patio will be decorated, and an eight-piece mariachi group, singers and dancers will perform. There's no cover. On Sunday, mariachis will perform from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and again again from 5 to 9 p.m. The restaurant is at 4328 E. Chapman Ave. (714) 539-2181.

A Latin jazz band will play at El Matador in Huntington Harbour from 8 p.m. to midnight Sunday. There's no admission charge, and drink specials will be offered. Earlier in the day brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $7.95, including champagne. El Matador is at 16903 Algonquin St., Huntington Harbour Mall. (714) 846-5337.

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