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Where to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

blackend-fish-tacos-spicy-margarita-1-slider-874x457Cinco de Mayo has largely devolved into a drinking holiday.  So if you’re going to celebrate Mexican culture by way of margaritas and nachos, you might as well do it at the most legitimately commendable restaurants in town; from Enrique Olvera’s Atla to Alex Stupak’s grand Empellon!

Atla

Atla
372 Lafayette St
NoHo,New York 10012
(646) 837-6464

Enrique Olvera’s new Nolita restaurant is considerably more casual than his Flatiron flagship, Cosme; making it a suitable spot to celebrate the irreverent Cinco de Mayo.  Open from early morning to late night, you can eat or drink your way straight through the day, segueing from Poached Ranchero Eggs Hoja Santa, to Nopal Tostadas, to White Ayocote Hummus with blue corn crisps, paired with Oaxacan Coffee, Overproof Margaritas and Moctezumas Revenge, featuring tequila, sherry and Mexican brown sugar.

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Empellon

Empellon
510 Madison Ave
Midtown East,New York 10022
(212) 858-9365

Enrique Olvera may have toned things down, but Alex Stupak has ramped up the volume at his over-the-top, super-sized addition to his Empellon empire, stuffing tacos with extravagant fillings like Octopus, Sweetbreads and Pastrami with mustard seed salsa, topping nachos with Crab and Sea Urchin Queso, and enfolding fajitas with A-5 Wagyu Beef, slicked with a rich black pepper mole.

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Alta Calidad

Alta Calidad
552 Vanderbilt Ave
Prospect Heights,New York 11238
(718) 622-1111

While Akhtar Nawab has occasionally flirted with his native Indian flavors, he’s become largely known for spearheading Mexican concepts, such as La Esquina, La Cenita and Choza Taqueria.  And he’s at it again at his first brick-and-mortar in years, Brooklyn’s Alta Calidad, offering gently elevated items like Queso Fundido with artichokes and chorizo, Tacos filled with fried shrimp and celery root remoulade, Tamales centered with sweet potato aligot, formed from crumbly chihuahua cheese, and Beef Back Ribs Guajillo, brightened with zesty chimichurri.

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Madre Mezcaleria

Madre Mezcaleria
706 Washington Ave
Crown Heights,New York 11238
(718) 399-0706

El Atoradero’s little sibling (which is situated directly next door and shares a backyard) boasts a heavy focus on mezcal — over 100 bottles, to be precise — with tasting notes as idiosyncratic as “burnt marshmallow,” “fruit snacks” and “lamb fat.”  And fans of Denisse Lina Alvarez’s cooking will be pleased to know that her house-nixtamalized blue corn tortillas have a sizable presence too; used to scoop up various salsas, black bean dip and charred corn elote, and formed into wavy tostadas cradling marinated tuna or spicy chicken tinga.

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La Milagrosa

La Milagrosa
149 Havemeyer St
Williamsburg,New York 11211
No Phone

Williamsburg’s new, mezcal speakeasy is located through an innocuous looking bodega (with laundromat signage) and accessed by a freezer door affixed with a red, corded phone.  Once granted entry, you’ll find a state-of-the-art sound system, myriad agave cocktails and ultra-fresh ceviches and aguachiles, all courtesy of the owner of local favorites: Cerveceria Havemeyer and La Superior.

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Playa Betty’s

Playa Betty’s
320 Amsterdam Ave
Upper West Side,New York 10023
(212) 712-0777

This Upper West Side shack actually honors the influence of Mexican cuisine on the Americas, via a culinary trip to Baja via the California coastline.  So what better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than with beachy eats, like Grilled Corn, Ahi Tuna Tacos, Chicken Enchiladas and Mexican Coke Steak, preceded by Frozen Palomas and Jalapeno Margaritas, and followed by Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches or Mexican Chocolate Flan.

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Tacuba Cantina

Tacuba Cantina
35-01 36th St
Queens,New York 11106
(718) 786-2727

Toloache kingpin, Julian Medina, has branched out to Queens with his newest cantina, serving myriad margaritas (cantaloupe, jalapeno, basil), chicken and chorizo flautas, baby lamb barbacoa tacos, and Tlayuda de Langosta; authentically Mexican nachos.

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Los Mariscos

Los Mariscos
409 W 15th St
Chelsea,New York 10011
(212) 920-4986

The team behind Chelsea Market’s popular Los Tacos #1 trotted out this seafood spin-off just this past year; specializing in fish tacos, mixed shellfish ceviche, scallop aguachile, oysters and clams on the half shell and shrimp cocteles, coupled with cold beer, Clamatos and Micheladas.

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