If you only know salsa as a spicy partner for chips, or think merengue is a pie topping, then it's time you became fluent in Latin, as in the music and dance of Central and South America. And there are plenty of restaurants, clubs and dance studios on Long Island where you can salsa or cha cha to your corazon's content, or sit it out and just listen to those Latin rhythms.
Cost: $7 admission Fridays and Sundays, $10 Saturdays
It's Solamente Salsa (both mambo salsa and African salsa) Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m. followed by a mix of salsa, cumbia, merengue, reggaeton and more from DJ El Gringo Latino and DJ Juano. Saturdays at 10 p.m., it's an hour of salsa, mambo and cha cha, then at 11 DJ Elvin and DJ Boy Wundah spin a mix of Latin tunes. Dance lessons are available most Sundays from 7 to 8 p.m. (classes are at 5 p.m. one Sunday each month, and then a live band, dancing and hot buffet follow at 7).
Nightclub where DJs play salsa on the weekends.
It takes two to tango, and at Cafe Buenos Aires, that twosome is dancer Nelson Avila, who appeared in "Forever Tango" on Broadway, and his wife, Madalyn. Their tangy tango is on the menu at the Argentine restaurant every Friday from 7:30 to 11 p.m. and during Sunday brunch from noon to 3 p.m.
As if the classic Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo and ropas viejas (shredded beef, onions and peppers in a zesty tomato sauce) weren't spicy enough, Cafe Havana turns up the Latin heat with free salsa lessons Wednesday nights at 8. There's also a live Latin jazz band to enhance your dining pleasure Friday and Saturday nights from 6:30 to 10 p.m. and a singer who croons tableside on Wednesdays.
Tuesday nights at Club 56 of the 56th Fighter Group Restaurant (Route 110 in Farmingdale), things get really crazy thanks to live music from Local Mambo Loco, which usually plays a zesty mix of cha cha, salsa, merengue and bachata. The evening usually gets started with an hourlong dance class (in February, it's bachata the first two Tuesdays and then two weeks of salsa) followed by a hot buffet and dancing until 11:30 p.m.
If you want to learn all Latin dance styles from Miami-style salsa to Argentine tango, there are lots of classes available. The school also hosts salsa parties every Tuesday at 9 p.m. and is hosting a Valentine's mixer Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m., which includes a complimentary dance lesson, hot buffet and refreshments ($15 advance, $20 at the door).
"The DJ plays a mix of everything from salsa to hustle to West Coast swing." --Caralyn Vasquez, Old Bethpage
Tuesday is Argentine tango night, and $15 gets you a lesson, dinner and dancing starting at 7. The Thursday night dance club features plenty of Latin music, starting with a 45-minute dance class at 7:30, followed by dancing, a buffet and cash bar from 8:15 to 11 ($12).