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Cinco Fiestas for Cinco de Mayo

A brief history lesson, plus a whole lot of food and drink recommendations: cinco fiestas for Cinco de Mayo.

Casa Borrega. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

The sight of greasy tacos al pastor, the sound of shaking margaritas, and the feel of reverberating Latin beats take root in New Orleans once more for the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

The holiday, which stems from the Mexican victory against the French during the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, is now an excuse for a fiesta in the U.S. (though in Mexico, it is actually a minor holiday) as well as a showing of solidarity with our Southern compadres.

Though vastly different from Mexico, New Orleans shares a Spanish colonial past.

Some scholars view New Orleans as the northernmost city of Latin America. One only has to remember that the city was under Spanish rule for almost four decades, from 1763-1802, to understand that this is not far from the truth. Though vastly different from Mexico, New Orleans shares a Spanish colonial past.

New Orleans also has a long relationship with Mexico. Benito Juárez, the president of Mexico at the time of the Battle of Puebla, spent two periods of politically induced exile in New Orleans in the 1850s prior to his presidency. Additionally, the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans is one of the oldest Mexican consulates in the United States. It closed in 2002 due to budget cuts but opened once more post-Katrina in 2008 after a large influx of Latino immigrants, including Mexicans, relocated to New Orleans to assist with rebuilding.

So, on this Cinco de Mayo, celebramos (let’s celebrate!) a heritage with shared roots and remember Mexico’s gallant victory against the French in 1862.

Local Mexican restaurants will commemorate the occasion with specials, drinks, and music around the city. Read on for our cinco top picks.

Cinco De Mayo in New Orleans

Araña Taqueria y Cantina

Araña Taqueria y Cantina, one of New Orleans’ newer Mexican restaurants, celebrates Cinco de Mayo on Friday, May 5 from 11:00 a.m. until close. Partnering with Olmeca Altos Tequila and Dos Equis Cerveza, the event will feature free Olmeca Altos tequila tastings from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Salvatore Geloso will provide the musical entertainment, and there will also be piñatas, giveaways, and a photo booth.

A variety of vibrant, delicious tacos at Arana. (Photo via Arana on Facebook)

Casa Borrega

Casa Borrega, which is co-owned by Mexico City native and artist Hugo Montero, hosts its annual Cinco de Mayo block party on Friday, May 5 from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. DJ Sin Promesas (No Promises) kicks off the party at 4:30 p.m. with electronic, pop, and more, while the more traditional Latin group, Fredy Omar con su Banda, ramps things up at 7:30 p.m. Casa Borrega will offer food and drink specials like carnitas, tamales, tostadas, and margaritas. The fiesta wraps up at 11:00 p.m.

Mayas

Latin fusion restaurant Mayas celebrates this year with its own spin– Cinco de Mayas. Mayas will be serving drinks like the Jose Cuervo cinnamon horchata and Jose Cuervo Añejo Old Fashioned as well as $3 beers and $4 shots. The restaurant is also giving out free Cinco de Mayas t-shirts with reservations. The party starts at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 11:00 p.m.

Felipe’s Taqueria. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Mid-City Felipe’s Taqueria

Felipe’s Mexican Taquería in Mid-City celebrates Cinco de Mayo on Friday, May 5 from 11:00 a.m. to midnight. The event features live music by local Latin/Caribbean-style band Jose Fermin Ceballos y Orquesta, featuring Merengue4-Four, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Additionally, there will be a taco cart (with the restaurant’s award-winning tacos al pastor) and plenty of margaritas to go around.

Patio: check. Margarita: check. Great food: check. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in NOLA at Velvet Cactus! (Photo courtesy of Velvet Cactus on Facebook)

Velvet Cactus

The Velvet Cactus, “a Mexican dive and funky Art Joint” in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood, celebrates Cinco de Mayo with a free, two-day fiesta. The party begins on Friday, May 5 at 11:00 a.m. with live music from Paperchase and Bag of Donuts from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. On Saturday, the Chee Weez closes out the party from 7:00  to 11:00 p.m.

Un Poquito Mas

  • As one of New Orleans’ favorite Tex-Mex restaurants, Superior Grill is sure to be a “go to” for Cinco de Mayo festivities. The restaurant will hold its regular happy hour (3:30 to 6:00 p.m.) featuring two-for-one and large-for-the-price-of-a-small margaritas and mixed drinks. Celebrate with a margarita, and order some guacamole dip and those Juarez sizzling fajitas to share with friends.
  • Dat Dog is getting festive this year for Cinco de Mayo. On Friday, May 5 from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., all three locations will feature “taco dogs”– burger dogs with taco seasoning, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, and jalapeños– and jalapeño margaritas made with a cilantro-infused syrup. Plus, happy hour runs from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and features specials like $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon, $3.50 Abita Amber, half-off well drinks, and select $5 hot dogs.

Let’s cheers with the typical Mexican “¡Arriba (glass up), abajo (glass down), al centro (glass in the center), pa’ dentro (inside — this is when you drink)! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking Crescent Park, catching nerdlesque shows, and riding the bus.

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