¿Dónde Está La Fiesta?

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Cinco de Mayo may grant Phoenicians an excuse to party, but the bargain margaritas and mouthwatering Mexican eats served at these three south-of-the-border watering holes are cause for year-round celebration.

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photos by Mark Lipczynski

Anaya’s
9240 N. 43rd Ave.,
Glendale, 623-243-2504, anayasmexicanrestaurant.com
Proving that space is what you make of it, the folks behind this West Valley mom-and-pop transformed a former fast-food joint into a warm and welcoming hacienda of gringo-friendly Mexican fare. Behind stucco walls lurks a color explosion of intricately carved Mexican furnishings, faux brick floors and a cozy bar with brick accents. Snag well drinks for $2.75 at happy hour, along with half-price nachos ($3.25) and one of the cheapest margs around ($2.99). Draft beers ($2.75) include usual Mexican suspects Tecate, Corona and Pacifico alongside northern neighbors Bud and Coors Light – all excellent choices to wash down a cheese crisp ($3.25) or quesadilla ($4.25). 3-6 p.m. M-F.

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Cantina Laredo
2150 E. Williams Field Rd., Gilbert
480-782-6777, cantinalaredo.com
Serapes? Maracas? There’s no need to venture into kitsch territory at Cantina Laredo, where Mexico’s Distrito Federal inspires an elegant neutral palette and upscale takes on traditional dishes: for example, sushi-grade ahi tacos for $4.50 during happy hour. This cantina is relatively quiet and seats around the circular bar are plush, making it difficult to resist staying a while. Pair $4 house wine and well drinks with ceviche and chorizo-spiked queso fundido ($4.50 each), or keep things simple with $2 domestic brews. At $5.50 for an order of three, half-price fajita, barbacoa, chicken or picadillo tacos are a steal. Add a few Casa ‘Ritas or import beers ($3 each) and it’s siesta time! 4-7 p.m. and 9 p.m. -close M-F and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sa. Bar only.

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Otro Café
6035 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
602-266-0831, otrocafe.com
Sister to The Clarendon Hotel’s Gallo Blanco, Otro Café plays to Mexican-born chef/owner Doug Robson’s aptitude for clean, sophisticated Mexico City fare. Amigos are welcomed by polished wood, unpainted cement block walls and crisp white furniture; views of a colorful street mural on the building next door provide visual pop. Happy hour is chill and unpretentious, with $1 off shareable apps like chile-studded guacamole ($3.50 small/$6.50 large) and grilled sweet corn coated in mayo and cotija ($5.50). Grab a $3 brew at the bar and watch chefs skillfully dice carne asada for street tacos ($2.60), or class things up with $6 wines by the glass. A covered patio overlooking the Seventh Street bustle is the ideal place to take advantage of $5 house margaritas, sangria and uncomplicated cocktails like the Mosca Burro with Sobieski vodka, lime juice and ginger beer. 2-6 p.m. daily.