Sun-Wed, 11:45am-1am; Thu, 11:45am-2am; Fri-Sat, 11:45am-3am
1 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
Canal St. to 14th St., Broadway to West Side Hwy.
This Mexican-themed mini-chain has entertained crops of young tourists, NYU students and the twenty-something after-work crowd since 1984. Its formula for longevity is largely liquid, via massive, 24-ounce frozen margaritas served in souvenir hurricane glasses, with rapid service and plenty of sports-programmed TVs on the side. (Most locations also have outdoor café seating with great people-watching possibilities.) Dramatic and colorful signage, including representations of the namesake mustachioed 1950s Studebaker taxi, make these spots hard to miss. The menu similarly overwhelms with dozens of entrees, from empanadas and quesadillas to burritos and enchiladas, as well as half-pound burgers and Buffalo wings. Quantity notwithstanding, the flavors here largely underwhelm, as if the robust, lusty chile fire has been engineered out in favor of soothing the pedestrian palate. So guacamole is freshly made but underseasoned, and steak fajitas do indeed sizzle, but their texture’s more stewed than grilled. Caliente Cab clearly relegates its cooking to the back seat, but after a margarita or two, its pleasantly buzzed, convivial clientele couldn’t care less.