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Hips 'n' salsa at the Havana Club

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Genre: Buckhead's long-standing salsa destination

Where to: The shopping center that spans the block between Pharr Road and Buckhead Avenue, the same that hosts Cafe Tu-Tu Tango and Paradox. Enter on Pharr where you only have to walk up one flight of stairs. Your feet will thank you later.

The scene: Quite possibly the only location in all of Buckhead where a live band gets people shaking "like a Polaroid picture." It's worth braving the crowds on a Friday or Saturday night when the club boasts a dance floor filled to capacity with civilized salsa dancing.

The clientele: In the same way that you know you've found a good restaurant on Buford Highway because you only see Asians eating there, this spot proves its worth with Latin men and women forming most of the weekend clientele.

Drinks: Sadly, no mojitos. Although legend does maintain that those who get into the Havana Club's executive-style leather and mahogany VIP room may find the Cuban drink there. Those who remain content with gyrating their hips and feet on the dance floor in the main room, however, must content themselves with a very basic selection of liquors and beers.

Munchies: Excluding the occasional complimentary buffet, a cigar room provides pleasure for those with oral fixations. Prices range from $10 to $20, and the room feature standards including Montecristo and Hoyo de Monterrey.

Wallet impact: Unlike its flash-in-the-pan district brethren, the Havana Club has been open a long time and sports lines of patrons even on Mondays. Expect no bargains and bring lots of cash.

Transcendence: With its emphasis on dancing and not drinking, it's fitting that this spot lies above Buckhead's streets. While much of the ward lying below caters to the frat boy looking for little more than to get drunk and laid, the Havana Club rises above expectations with easy sophistication. It's also a refreshing alternative to Midtown's labelwhore scene, a pair of hips ready to swing into step is all that's required for a stylish evening.

Sexism is at its best at the Havana Club, as ladies can get away with just about anything -- including bad dance moves. There's always a bevy of men available to show a girl how it's done. Men, on the other hand, would do well to attend one of the free lessons offered Thursday nights 9:30-10:30 p.m. if they want a chance at competing with the Latin contingent raised on the stuff.

Havana Club. Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri. 8 p.m.-4 a.m.; Sat. 8 p.m.-3 a.m. 247 Buckhead Ave. 404-869-8484

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