Lest the history of Cinco de Mayo be drowned beneath a sea of weak, artificially-flavored margaritas, it’s time for mandatory Mexican History 101: That holiday you’re celebrating has to do with a war victory. Specifically, a May 5, 1862 win by the comparatively weak Mexican army of 4,000, over the 8,000-strong, fifty-years-undefeated, Mexican-invasion-attempting French army.
A feat to be celebrated, for sure. And what better way to celebrate the spirit and perseverance of those 4,000 than with a Mexican feast and margarita toast to that delicious cuisine we might be forced to live without, had it not been for victory on el 5 de mayo? –Chelsea Karnash
4550 Mitchell St. (Roxborough)
1919 E. Passyunk Ave.
Roxborough’s Adobe has been around since 1989, offering up a wide variety of classic Mexican and Southwest fare. The outdoor patio is super cute, and recently, they opened up another (narrower) patio on the other side of the restaurant. Plus, vegetarians and vegans will be well taken care of here, as the restaurant boasts an array of veggie/vegan menu options. Friendly service and—though not remotely Mexican—some of the best wings around, too.
Cantina Dos Segundos
931 N. 2nd St.
Want to start Cinco de Mayo off with a Mexican brunch? You’re in luck: Dos Segundos offers brunch every day, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. They also have house-infused vodkas in two varieties, garlic and basil or red pepper, and the kitchen is open until 1 a.m. Go early though, as they don’t take reservations for groups smaller than 8.
Cantina Los Caballitos
1651 E. Passyunk Ave.
Sister restaurant to Dos Segundos (and Khyber Pass and Royal Tavern), Los Caballitos offers up an area outside where you can people watch to your heart’s delight. They also have half-price pitchers of margaritas during happy hour, as well as a number of vegetarian and vegan menu options.
3945 Chestnut St.
Starting at 3 p.m., party is FREE
Distrito will be starting the Cinco de Mayo party early with tunes from DJ Lips, Mexican treats (tacos, nachos, guac etc) and a special margarita ($5-7). From 8 – 11 p.m., there will also be a tequila tasting, featuring a special menu and ten (!) different types of tequila. Heads up on the tequila tasting: it’s $35 in advance ($45 at the door) and limited to 80 people.
El Limon Taqueria
103 Fayette St. (Conshohocken)
Two words: free margaritas. Yes, you read that right. This convenience store/restaurant hybrid might not boast the prettiest ambiance, but it offers up yummy, authentic food and homemade sauces, for cheap. Plus, El Limon is open until 3 a.m. on weekends, so you can make a pit stop when those post-bar munchies hit—dangerous.
2013 Chestnut St.
El Rey might have an old-school exterior, but inside, the place is all Stephen Starr. Expect innovative cuisine that’s definitely not traditional Mexican, but delish nonetheless. Also, El Rey offers the reasonable “Uno, Dos, Tres, Quattro” happy hour special all week (5 – 6:30 p.m.), featuring $1 tacos, $2 Tecates, $3 Coronas and $4 classic margaritas.
121 S. 13th St.
The website describes El Vez as “Mexican-American meets east L.A. in a Tijuana taxi,” and as far as someone who has never been to East L.A. or Mexico knows, that’s pretty accurate. Vivid colors, loud music and a see-and-be-seen crowd. The food’s pretty darn good, too. Get the most bang for your buck by ordering either of the nacho options, as portions can run on the small side.
106 S. 13th St.
Looking for an upscale Cinco de Mayo celebration? Head to Lolita. The 13th street eatery, part of the Marcie Turney/Valerie Safran empire, is BYOT (bring your own tequila; they’ll make the margarita base) and cash-only. They also don’t accept reservations, but if you can stand waiting, the food is totally worth it.
1601 Cherry St.
104 Chestnut St.
3100 Naamans Rd. (Wilmington, Del.)
Mexican Post may not be the prettiest restaurant on the list, or offer up food that’s worth raving about, but it’s still good. Plus, the place is fun, and the outdoor dining at the Love Park location is…love-ly. Great for groups, or an after work happy hour.
Taqueria La Veracruzana
908 Washington Ave.
In a word, authentic. Taqueria is known for having possibly the best Mexican in the city. It may not be beautiful (nor is the area), the service is friendly and speedy, and the food is excellent, comforting and extremely cheap. Make sure to stop by the shady liquor store down the street beforehand, as TLV is BYOB.
408 S. 2nd St.
Though Xochitl (so-cheet) possesses one of the most un-phonetic spellings of any restaurant in the city, it has some of the most delicious Mexican food. To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the restaurant will be offering up a special menu of Mexican street food—all under $10—as well as specially priced margs.
A word to the wise: if you’re looking for a strong drink that doesn’t taste like one, try la chilindrina—so good.