The Place: Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina. 2104 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, (949) 723-0606.
The Hours: Monday through Friday, 3p.m. to 6p.m.
The Deal: Pints of Dos Equis, Tecate, Land Shark and other drafts beers and well drinks, $3. House margaritas will cost you $4. Selected appetizers and "outrageous" tacos (their description, not ours) are $3 to $4.
The scene: This minuscule restaurant-bar was surprisingly uncrowded Friday after work. The bartendress told me that with the end of summer, they are entering their slow season. Win for those looking to booze. Though the large east-facing windows don't afford any ocean views, they let in a beautiful sea breeze and offer the observant imbiber a chance to do some people watching. Languidly twirling ceiling fans add to the tropical motif. With its close proximity to the beach, there is no shortage of scantily clad people strolling past the windows. The bar, rimmed by a sheet metal roof, sports a counter top that reminds one of a cutting board perfect for slicing lemons to drop in a bottle of Tecate.
The Sauce: Since buying Tecate or Dos Equis is as easy as strolling to the local 7-11, I ordered a pint of Landshark. This simple lager originally developed for Jimmy Buffet's restaurant chain shares a lot in common with Budweiser (both are Anheuser Busch products). Depending on your tastes, this can be a good or bad thing. I personally like the taste of Budweiser and consider it my go-to beer when I'm not interested in having my pallet bombarded with a wealth of bitter spice and citrus notes. I also tried the house margarita made with fresh lime juice. Served in a pint glass, it's effective. And for the warm fuzzy feeling it engendered, the price was right.
The food: A good selection of bar food for happy hour, Rockin' Baja offers a list of tacos as
well as chips and guacamole and chicken quesadillas. I went with two surf-and-turf tacos. Full of carne asada and spicy shrimp, they were piled high with avocados, pickled onions and crema fresca. While I'm not a huge fan of anything resembling sour cream, this is an easy fix (ask them to hold it.) These tacos will set you back $3, and two were more than enough to fill my belly.
The Verdict: The bartendress on this Friday afternoon was incredibly gracious and the joint made for a casual and relaxing environment perfect for unwinding from the work week. While the food isn't fine dining, it was tasty and plentiful. A larger beer selection would've been nicer, but the added benefit of an icy cold margarita balanced the equation. A really good spot worth a trip down south.
The grade: B+