Cinco de Mayo, which is not Mexican Independence Day (that comes Sept. 16), is celebrated in the United States and in Mexico on the fifth of May. The holiday, on Monday this year, commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla.
Today in the U.S., it’s observed as a celebration of Mexican heritage. Celebrations here originated in areas containing large Mexican-American contingencies such as the Los Angeles area. Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated continuously in California since 1863.
The city of Puebla, where the holiday originated, is also renowned by many as a culinary capital where legendary dishes such as mole poblano, chalupas and chiles en Nogado were created. With all this historical food surrounding the holiday, it’s no wonder we spend a majority of the day eating. Sometimes we may not be dining on the most historically appropriate food, but the sentiment is there, and many District restaurants are eager to get a piece of the action.
If you’re hoping to start off the celebration a bit early, then Taco Bamba’s Bamba Bowl is the event for you. On Saturday, Taco Bamba will host some of the District’s best taquarias at Del Campo (777 I St., N.W.). Participating restaurants include Mexicana Bakery, Oyamel, Casa Oaxaca and Taco Bamba. For just $30, you can taste the offerings of each and help decide the winner.
If you want to spend the day on the water, the Agua 301 (301 Water St., S.E.) is just the right place for you to spend Cinco de Mayo. Located right on the waterfront, this restaurant puts a creative twist on modern Mexican cuisine. Try the jumbo lump crab guacamole — that alone will make your day memorable.
Bandolero (3241 M St., N.W.) is located in the heart of Georgetown and while “Top Chef” contestant Mike Isabella has not revealed his holiday menu yet, it’s bound to be full of creative twists on modern mexican cuisine. Anybody want to celebrate with an Octapus taco? If so. this is the place to spend your evening.
Casa Oaxaca (2106 18th St. N.W.) is a traditional Mexican establishment that offers a multitude of moles from white all the way to chocolate-infused black mole. While there, be sure to try out the kekas which are tortilla made of blue corn, cheese, poblano peppers and carnitas.
El Centro on 14th Street (1819 14th St., N.W.) is one of the best places to party on Cinco de Mayo with an outdoor rooftop to enjoy if the weather is nice. El Centro also touts a wide selection of tequilas, sangrias and margaritas to choose from on top of the mouthwatering dining options. And to liven up the festivities a bit more, El Centro will have a live DJ from 7 p.m. to close.
El Chulo (3313 11th St. N.W.) is a Mexican restaurant in Columbia Heights that specializes in home cooking and street food. All the margaritas are prepared with fresh-squeezed juice and other divine ingredients.
Lauriol Plaza (1835 18th St. N.W.) is always packed for Cinco de Mayo festivities. Located just off Dupont Circle and featuring a traditional Mexican menu, it’s one of the largest and most popular dining establishments in the District. Expect a margarita-filled and boisterous good time if you choose to celebrate the holiday at Lauriol.
Richard Sandoval’s Masa 14 (1825 14th St. N.W.) will be showcasing three different margaritas specifically for the evening which pair perfectly with some new small plates off the spring menu. The mini Ancho chile mahi mahi quesadilla and the Veracruz chicken chalupa both look phenomenal.
MXDC (600 14th St. N.W.) is located in Metro Center and offers delicious bites from Mexico and beyond including three types of guacamole to snack on while downing one of the delicious sangrias offered. Then get down to business with some mahi mahi or pork belly tacos.
Oyamel (401 7th St. N.W.) by Jose Andres was named one of the Top 10 Mexican Restaurants in the world by Reforma magazine. What better way to spend Cinco de Mayo than with the best brought to you by Head Chef Colin King?
At Sandoval’s Zengo (781 7th St., N.W. in Chinatown), chips, salsa and hors d’oeuvres will be available to guests who stop by the lower level lounge around 3 p.m. Monday. Drink specials will also be available.