Red-Hot Latin Energy at El Calor

Anaheim boasts many playgrounds--for the kids, sports fans and visiting relatives. And to lovers of musica Latina, the city is becoming county central for nightclubs featuring everything from salsa to rock-pop espanol.

The most recent entry is El Calor, a 5,000-square-foot escape that can invoke a sense of holiday in the most miserable souls. Whether it's all the mirrors, brass rails and paneling or the constantly ecstatic Spanish-speaking deejay, the club recalls those in Miami or Mexico City, where the parties never take a breather.

Patrons and employees are mostly Latino and prefer to communicate in Spanish, but the lighthearted vibe transcends any language or cultural barriers.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are its most vibrant, with a mixed format of salsa, cumbia, merengue and rock-pop espanol.

But even on weeknights, El Calor (translation: "the heat") fires up late. Don't let that keep you away early evenings, though. The energy gets going even then, and the parking lot fills up fast.

Wednesdays are listed as alternative music nights, but expect a commercial interpretation of this genre, which admittedly has become so commercial in any language that it has lost some of its original meaning. Besides, it's mostly house- and New Wave-flavored, better labeled under the rock-pop en espanol category--which is Thursday night's theme.

Thursday is also billed as Ladies' Night, complete with a male dance revue beginning at 10 p.m. That's right, it's about getting the women all hot and bothered before the guys join them. Like it matters; the sensuality inherent in some Latin dances arises just fine on other evenings without the briefed beef.

The wood parquet floor is almost perfect for the range of skillful maneuvers the dancers unfurl. Almost perfect, because on crowded weekends there's little room to execute those moves. Though that doesn't seem to dissuade anyone from squeezing in.

If variety is the spice of life, then rate the dancing well seasoned . Salsa steps slip into hip-hop and disco moves. Or a couple will strike a dramatic pose for the entertainment of anyone watching. Sitting out a set is out of the question, confided one reveler, unless it's time to recharge.

Refueling at the bar runs $3 for all domestic and import beers; $4 to $6 for wells, calls and premiums; sodas and juices are $2, and bottled water is $1. Happy hour runs Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m., with $1 beer and $1.75 wells. El Calor will also launch its taco bar that day, complete with quesadillas, ceviche, burritos, fajitas and other Mexican fare, from 75 cents per taco to $3.95 for dinner. Dinners will be served from 5 to 9 p.m. nightly, while tacos will keep on coming until closing.

Many patrons from other clubs end up at El Calor, which stops charging a cover after 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and keeps its doors open until 3:30 or 4 a.m. (the food, but not the alcohol, continues till then).

The club is a first-time effort by owners John Adger and Albert Bushala, whose family has owned restaurants and lounges for 33 years.

El Calor is super-bueno y mas.


* 2916 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim.

* (714) 527-8873.

* Open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3:30.

* No cover Wednesday and Thursday; $5, Friday and Sunday; $7, Saturday.

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