Ideas and options for Cinco de Mayo dining

by: Scott Joseph Updated:

Just about time for Cinco de Mayo again. It always seems to occur around the first week in May.

Cinco de Mayo, of course, is a huge celebration during which you’ll find much revelry, singing, drinking, eating, and more drinking in Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants all across the United States.

In Mexico, not so much.

Despite what many Americans believe, Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican equivalent of our Independence Day, or Cuarto de Julio, if you will. (Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16 -- somehow no one in the U.S. has thought to co-opt that into raucous drinking holiday. Yet.)

Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates a battle in the region of Puebla in 1862. It seems that Mexico owed a lot of money to France and wasn’t able to repay the debt. So France sent an army over essentially to foreclose. And as the French marched through Puebla on their way to the sea, because armies always inevitably march to the sea, they were confronted by Pueblans. And even though the French greatly outnumbered the Mexicans, the French were defeated. So on May 5th you’ll find celebrations throughout Puebla, but very little commemoration in the rest of Mexico.

Ah, but here in the U.S., there will be fajitas (an American invention), chimichangas (American), and nachos (oh so American), and we’ll be drinking Margaritas (take a guess) and putting a wedge of lime in our beer (yep, an American contrivance).

But hey, don’t let me burst your piñata. Go out, have a good time. Shout ole a few times. But know that the holiday is observed back in Mexico about as much as we celebrate Arbor Day.

If a Cinco de Mayo celebration is in your plans, here are some recommendations. They’re not all authentic Mexican, but we know now that doesn’t really matter, don’t we?

Cocina 214 -- The 214 is the area code for Dallas, so that tells you this is firmly in Tex-Mex territory. They do a good Sunday brunch, too, which is nice since May 5 is a Sunday. (Cinco de Mayo Party info)

La Hacienda Meat Market y Taqueria -- More market than restaurant, this little grocery has a corner dedicated to doing traditional Mexican foods that you can eat there or take home.

Paxia Alta Cocina Mexicana -- College Park eatery with a pleasant upscale atmosphere and creatively Mexican dishes.

Chuy’s -- New player in town with a strong following of folks who know it from its Austin roots. Food is good and the interior is eclectic.

Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila -- Rocco himself is expect to be atop the bar this 5/5 pouring drinks directly down the gullets of willing patrons. Picture Pee-wee Herman dancing to the song “Tequila” but without the big shoes. (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta info)

Lots more at Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide.