Salsa dancing — it’s hot, saucy, and spicy! With roots in Cuba and sound bites from Africa, Central America, and Spain, the six-step dance found its way to the Cheetah Club on Broadway in the 70s, becoming “the birthplace of salsa”, according to urban legend. Less than two decades later, salsa joints began popping up all over the U.S. And it’s easy to see why. Apart from the “fun factor”, salsa dancing burns more than 420 calories per hour, working all of your major muscle groups. So, stop dragging yourself to the gym and spin like a top in one of these five best salsa clubs in the US.
Hoy Como Ayer
Señoritas, welcome to the heart of Little Havana: Hoy Como Ayer, where salsa holds sway. A throwback to the days when musicians waltzed into clubs unannounced and began jamming, it has a low ceiling, small stage, and tiny tables, that couples salsa between without turning, living up to the meaning of its name, “today as yesterday”. For two hours on any given night, its musical jambalaya pounds at a breakneck pace, vibrating the portraits of icons from Cuba’s musical heyday like tiny gongs. Regular acts include Murk’s Oscar Gaetan and The Spam Allstars: the house band that blends techno and turntables with Latin, funk, hip-hop, and dub, creating what fans call an electronic descarga. The curtain lifts after midnight in Magic City. So, pick your vice: explore the brief menu of Latin bites, down a perfectly mixed Mojito, puff on an authentic Cuban cigar, habla Español with the bar keep, or scan the dark lounge — where if you’re lucky, you might even spot a Latin legend from salsa’s golden age, the 50s and 60s.
Manhattan, New York
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Originally known as Azucar, “sugar”, Guantanamera is a sweet escape from Midtown Manhattan. Its dining room exudes colonial Havana chic: candle-lit tables, rattan-covered ceiling fans, and exposed bricks. Worn yellow walls decked with patriotic murals of palm trees, bananas, farmers, and musicians seal the illusion: you’ll even find a man hand-rolling complimentary cigars on weekends. Patrons, some in evening gowns, others in t-shirts and shorts, sip mango mojitos with crushed lime, fresh mint, and sugar cane splinters. Guantanamera’s primarily Cuban cuisine has Caribbean and Spanish influences, so it might not impress your traditional Abuelita. Mouth-watering nosh alert: try the tostones rellenos— fried, green plantains shaped into a crown that’s
topped with tomato-dipped shrimp. Then listen to Ibború, the house band that specializes in Timba, a blend of salsa, American funk, R&B, and Afro-Cuban folkloric music, rattle the walls with high-decibel beats. And, though there’s no dance floor, we’re sure, Señora, that you’ll want to shake your body line.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Firefly is a never-ending party where hips swing and minds meld — Vulcan-style. A sprawling, glass bar, crimson-colored booths surrounded by black curtains for private parties, and low-hanging chandeliers create a romantic, sensual atmosphere. The tapas-style restaurant, run by chef John Simmons, also offers some seriously good eats: bacon-wrapped olives in red-wine sauce, chicken and chorizo stuffed mushrooms, and manchego macaroni and cheese; none priced over $10. You’ll also want to grab a glass of Firefly’s famous, house-made red, white, or sparkling sangria. And, if you’re looking for a place to shine — that’s the salsa term for setting the ballroom on fire with your solo footwork — hit this club on Latin Night, on Fridays starting at 10:30 p.m., for an ever-revolving circuit of DJs and live music.
Los Angeles, California
Flying fringe dresses, fire engine red stilettos, and a hot, hot, hot beat to match: walk into the Granada on Fridays or Saturdays and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a bygone era, where couples twirl in sync to the rhythm of the night. Sure, it may be intimidating to first-timers, but the club offers one-hour classes at the beginning of each month. Single ladies and gents, it’s completely okay to come here alone. Ninety-five percent of each class is single and partners are swapped after every song.
La La Land’s hottest nightclub has three stories. The first floor is salsa central — packed with professional dancers that’ll keep you stepping until the morning light. (Heads-up: dancing in heels should count as a superpower, so don’t forget to wear a pair of comfy kicks.) The second story is a restaurant. Its menu is somewhat limited. But, we recommend recharging with a Granada Burger: 100% Angus beef topped with 1000 island dressing, mozzarella, arugula, tomatoes, and onions. Afterward, head to the open patio on the third floor for a mix of hip-hop, reggae, and bachata, a dance that’s essentially salsa’s sensual sister.
Multiple locations, Texas
Gloria’s, a chain of family and pet-friendly cantinas that draws raves for its Tex-Mex and Salvadorian dishes, isn’t necessarily a nightclub, per se. But, nonetheless, twice per week, every Friday and Saturday night, you’ll be transported south of the border, thanks to The Havana NRG Orchestra and an ever-growing crowd of experienced salsa dancers, sporting business-casual threads. The 25-year-old nightclub’s decor will also blow you away. Its roof is a giant yellow and black pinwheel, and its color-changing chandeliers resemble floating jellyfish. If you’re looking for “juice” to help you become foot-loose, hit this hot-spot during Happy Hours for a Strawberry Mojito or Spicy Pineapple Margarita.