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Chips and Rips

CLUBS in and around Orange County | WANNA DANCE?

Rockin' Taco Cantina serves its fare with a lively side of dueling pianos.

March 19, 1998|GENA PASILLAS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FULLERTON — Rockin' Taco Cantina has all the telltale signs of a typical bar and grill, including alcohol-promotion mirrors, brick walls and abundant televisions sets. Yet let the ears belie what the eyes perceive. A musical piano duel assures that this is no ordinary watering hole.

Pianists Steve Haas of Anaheim and Joey Riedel of Redlands begin their battle at 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. These guys know all the favorites and take requests. Their agile digits conjure up everything from "Love Will Keep Us Together" to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Even "Partridge Family" tunes can be heard out on Harbor Boulevard.

Patrons enthusiastically cheer each song. Diners in the restaurant area often forget their food and sing along with the pianists and bar patrons. Even the 50-cent tacos sold in the bar starting around 9 Fridays and Saturdays are neglected to piano fervor. As the night progresses and people grow hungrier, however, the tacos are gone quicker than you can say jalapeno.

Rockin' Taco flaunts its full bar, specializing in steeply priced martinis ($3.75-$5.75) and tropical drinks ($5.75--sans umbrellas). These liquid delicacies are lucrative for the cantina, as successful yuppies account for the majority of the bar's business. Schooners (32 ounces) of beer for $5.25 are available for die-hard brewski lovers.

If funds are low, consider taking advantage of Rockin' Taco's Tuesday drink specials: $2 Coronas and $1 tequila shots.

If you're impressed by the dueling pianos, you'll appreciate the 11 o'clock hour, when owner Dan Lauriano of Fullerton joins on drums.

Despite all this ruckus since Lauriano and partner Cam Irons, also of Fullerton, took over in September, the extent of Rockin' Taco Cantina's entertainment lineup has yet to be realized. They plan to start Reggae Sundays on April 5, featuring a huge barbecue and live bands "straight from Jamaica," according to Lauriano. Their hopes are high that releasing melodies through the large front windows will attract a hefty crowd.

There is no dance floor, but that doesn't stop people from rocking out in their seats--if they can snag one. The cantina is stuffed to capacity most of the night, so even ordering a drink can seem like an Indiana Jones adventure.

Rockin' Taco Cantina's restaurant offers a wide selection of appetizers and entrees for lunch or dinner; entrees average $5.50 at lunch and around $8 at dinner. One may venture to try the El Nino dinner, a sizzling skillet filled with seasoned slipper lobster tails and other seafood for $15.75. Under-21s can have dinner until 11 p.m. After that, they must turn into pumpkins and go somewhere else.

Men, if you're having a bad hair day and can't be bothered with taming your mop, don't think you can get away with hiding it under a cap. A dress code outlaws baseball caps, as well as baggy pants, sandals and untucked shirts.

Still, the code does not diminish a diverse clientele. Proximity to Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College would suggest a crowd of mainly rowdy college students, but the lively atmosphere accommodates a classier brand. Not many would be ashamed to bring their grandmothers here, nor would they end up feeling like one.

And you and Granny both can sport a smiling, south-of-the-border jalapeno man. Fans can purchase Rockin' Taco Cantina hats and T-shirts for $10 apiece.

BE THERE

Rockin' Taco Cantina is at 111 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton. Cantina open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., after which you must be 21 to enter. Till 2 a.m. No cover. (714) 525-8226.

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