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T.J. Charly'z, With a Z (for Zest)

It's Hermosa Beach, not Tijuana, but margaritas, salsa, entertainment are key.

June 11, 1998|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It would be easy to mistake T.J. Charly'z for a cantina south of the border.

Located just north of the popular Pier Plaza in downtown Hermosa Beach, T.J. Charly'z is a full-service restaurant and bar with nightly entertainment that strives to have as much kick as the chunky salsa it serves up with tortilla chips.

The Mexican-themed restaurant and bar is nicknamed for Tijuana, the border town that's known as the kind of happenin' place that T.J.'s is aiming to be. And there are braided Mexican blankets hanging from the ceiling and brightly colored murals painted on the walls to evoke memories of the party town.

Charly'z is a casual kind of place where margaritas and Mexican beer are the mainstays. Don't expect a fancy glass for your wine or fine china with your food. This a place where you kick back. If you wear anything dressier than denim, you'll stick out like a jalapen~o on a hamburger.

T.J. Charly'z owner Steve Dahdah opened the joint last April in the same spot at which he ran the Strawberry Patch restaurant for 14 years. As the crowd in Hermosa Beach got younger, Dahdah figured it was time to change and close up his continental cuisine eatery in favor of something more hip.

When he first opened the place, it was called Tabasco Charly'z, but Dahdah and the makers of the spicy hot sauce got into a legal tussle over his using its trademark name. Instead of going to court, Dahdah simply renamed the place.

Charly'z is perhaps one of the most eclectic venues in Hermosa Beach because its entertainment lineup is so varied. Each night of the week offers something different.

On Monday's, T.J.'s features stand-up comedy night with amateur comedians onstage. On "Taco Tuesdays," when the beef- and chicken-wrapped concoctions cost only $1, the mike is turned over to anyone who wants five minutes of fame. Musicians are the mainstay, but occasionally a poet or comic shows up.

One wouldn't think of a Mexican restaurant having a karaoke night, but at Charly'z, the Wednesday karaoke night is surprisingly successful. Then again, the double margarita and tequila specials may have something to do with it. And Thursdays through Saturdays, live bands are booked for the night, playing everything from rock to blues.

The week winds up on Sunday with a blues jam hosted by the Big Johnson Band when just about anyone who knows how to play an instrument or carry a tune can get onstage with the rock 'n' blues band. The place gets some spillover from Cafe Boogaloo, the blues club down the street, mostly amateur musicians who are looking to make music after listening to it all night.

Though the crowd is kind of thin on weeknights, weekends are packed with punch. And, as the weather warms up, the folks who don't have time to head to T.J. (the city) can head for T.J. Charly'z for their fix.

BE THERE

T.J. Charly'z, 1332 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach. (310) 372-2194. 21 and over. Cover: Friday and Saturdays, $5 after 10 p.m. All other nights free. Full menu.

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