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The City’s Best Cinco de Mayo Celebrations

Tacombi at Fonda Nolita

Tacombi at Fonda Nolita

What immediately springs to mind when you think of Cinco de Mayo?  Probably pitchers of sangria, frosty, salt-rimmed margaritas, baskets of chips and salsa, and all the tacos you can eat.  But technically, the holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France, at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.

Considered a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has since evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, which, for the gringos among us, pretty much translates to tequila in all forms and all the tacos we can eat.  And since Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday this year, that leaves us with plenty of work-free hours to party at terrific restaurants all over the city, from El Toro Blanco in the West Village and Gran Electrica in Brooklyn to Pachanga Patterson in the East Village.

Gran Electrica

Gran Electrica
5 Front Street
Brooklyn,New York 11201
(718) 852-2789

Spend an impossibly hip Cinco de Mayo at DUMBO’s Gran Electrica, from the team behind Colonie and the recently (and sadly) shuttered Governor.  You can sip on brightly colored beet margaritas while you check out the custom designed, “Day of the Dead” wallpaper, depicting grinning skeletons cavorting at classic Brooklyn locations.  Or, if the weather permits, grab a seat in the lush backyard strung with twinkly lights, and nibble on Aguachile, Market Fish Tacos, and Quesadillas with Oyster Mushrooms and Epazote.

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El Toro Blanco

El Toro Blanco
257 6th Avenue
West Village,New York 10014
(212) 645-0193

From the team behind Burger and Barrel and Lure Fishbar, the city’s hottest new Mexican restaurant is bound to be an even hotter ticket during Cinco de Mayo.  Dishes like the Green Chile Queso Fundido are perfect for sharing with a group, but you’ll want to bogart the other tasty nibbles for yourself, like Elote Verde Tamales, Lobster Seviche, Cactus Salad, and Tacos al Pastor.  An assortment of interesting margaritas (try the prickly pear), and Mexican-accented cocktails are perfectly tasty, but it’s hard to ignore the draw of a 100-strong list of tequilas and mezcals.

Tacombi

Tacombi
267 Elizabeth Street
Nolita,New York 10012
(917) 727-0179

Snacking on chips and salsa and sipping sangria always manages to mentally transport us to some beachy location. And Tacombi at Fonda Nolita does its best to foster the illusion. Tacos are purchased from a VW bus, parked inside a converted garage, outfitted with backgammon tables and tropical plants. Chef Luis Aguilar’s menu includes Short Rib Barbacoa and Crispy Fish Tacos, brunch favorites like Chilaquiles and Huevos Rancheros, and during Cinco de Mayo, bottomless Mexican drinks, like Spiked Horchatas, Micheladas, and Sangria Tintas. Jackpot.

Empellon Cocina

Not all Cinco de Mayo celebrations need to center around cut-priced, slushy margaritas and $3 tacos… although we certainly appreciate the ones that are. But if you’d rather spend the holiday in high-style, look no further than Alex Stupak’s Empellon Cocina, largely considered to be one of the best new restaurants to open last year.  A special $95 Cinco de Mayo dinner includes unlimited margaritas, beer, and sparkling wine, and six delectable courses.  Start with Stupak’s buzzed about Pistachio Guacamole and Masa Chips, followed by treats like Carnitas Rillettes, Mango and Peekytoe Crab Salad, Lobster Fundido, Sea Scallop and Caramelized Cauliflower Tacos, and a selection of desserts for the table.

Mayahuel

Mayahuel
304 E 6th Street
East Village,New York 10003
(212) 253-5888

This atmospheric, East Village bar boasts some serious cocktail cred, with Ravi DeRossi of DesnudaCienfuegos, and Death & Co. at the helm.  But appropriately for Cinco de Mayo, the concentration at Mayahuel is tequila.  Order one of the “Flights to Mexico” for a taste of three different styles, like Blanco (white), Reposado (barrel aged), and Anejo (vintage), or try tequila infused in a variety of cocktails or punches.  There’s also a respectable food menu available, to prevent you from getting too woozy — running the gamut from small bites (Black Bean and Plantain Croquetas), to large plates (Cochinita Pibil), and even desserts (Tres Leches or Churros and Chocolate).

Pachanga Patterson

Pachanga Patterson
33-17 31st Avenue
Queens,New York 11106
(718) 554-0525

This Astoria bar and restaurant was inspired by “family meals,” the often Mexican-influenced fare that staff chows down on before and after service.  Not that there’s any less care put into the ingredients; Pachanga Patterson sources their tortillas from Corona’s Tortilleria Nixtamal, their produce from Brooklyn Grange, and their vino from nearby Raphael Vineyards.  So gather your own friends and family for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and order a tasting for the table.  Choose the Small, Medium, or Large Pachanga, which includes a trio of guacamoles, a duo of tostadas and empanadas, three types of tacos, and dessert.

Rayuela

Rayuela
165 Allen Street
Lower East Side,New York 10002
(212) 253-8840

This stylish, LES restaurant serves “Freestyle Latino” cuisine, meaning you’ll find influences from all over Latin America and Spain, dotting a special Cinco de Mayo menu.  Start your celebrations early during their Taco Brunch Party, where $18 buys three tacos (like the Costilla Con Huevo, filled with a short rib and tetilla cheese omelet), or the Junta Pero no Revuelto (hard boiled egg and chorizo),  along with a signature margarita.  Or pop in between 5-8pm that evening for complimentary tacos with the purchase of a Siembra Azul Tequila margarita — choose from Earl Grey + Figs with ginger liquor and agave, Margarita de Rosas with rose liquor and fresh rose petals, or the sweet and sour Calamansi y Limon.

Habana Outpost

Habana Outpost
757 Fulton Street
Brooklyn,New York 11217
(718) 858-9500

 One of the surest signs of spring in Brooklyn is the reopening of Habana Outpost, an open-air offshoot of Nolita’s Café Habana.  New York’s first eco-eatery, this always hopping spot boasts communal wooden tables made from recycled lumber, “green” bathrooms with toilets that flush with rainwater, and a bicycle-powered blender that churns out frosty margaritas.  And the food, which you order from a red truck parked outside, is perfect for Cinco de Mayo snacking.  Think meaty Cubanos, tri-colored chips served with creamy Guacamole, and pitch-perfect Elote, or Mexican-style Grilled Corn, coated with cotija cheese, chili powder and lime.

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