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Food & Drink

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.

Velvet Cactus
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Velvet Cactus in Lakeview. (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

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 Cinco de Mayo celebrations. The holiday, which commemorates 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., (although 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 and Mexico also have a friend in common. 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 efforts. 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.

Plenty of local Mexican restaurants and other establishments will be commemorating the occasion with food and drink specials, music, and more. Read on for our Cinco de Mayo fiesta top picks.

Cinco De Mayo in New Orleans

Casa Borrega

Casa Borrega, which is co-owned by Mexico City native and artist Hugo Montero, hosts its annual Cinco de Mayo street party on Sunday, May 5 from 11:00 a.m. to midnight. The Mexican restaurant will feature food and drink specials and live Latin music. La Tranka plays from 4 to 7 p.m., Luna Mora provides entertainment from 7 to 10 p.m., and Javier Gutierrez & Vivaz close out the fiesta from 10 p.m. to midnight. 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.

Frida and Diego Costume Contest

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a special Frida and Diego Themed Celebration at Eiffel Society. Krewe de Mayahuel, a Krewe devoted to celebrating Mexican and local culture in New Orleans will lead a secondline into Eiffel Society beginning at 2p.m. MC Rico, Dj Laleaux, DJ Javi Reyes, and DJ Styles will provide music.  Costumes are encouraged, and like any great party, there will be a photo booth on sight. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and entrance is free. 2040 St. Charles Avenue

CINCO-Mania at Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant (photo courtesy of Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant)
CINCO-Mania at Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant (photo courtesy of Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant)

Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar Block Party

Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, which serves southern California-style Mexican food, is hosting its second annual Cinco-Mania block party with music, a Cinco-themed photobooth, tequila and beer promotions, and giveaways for Top Taco tickets. Mexican wrestling (lucha libre) begins at 3 p.m. in a wrestling ring set up in the middle of the street. “Cinco-de-Drinko!” lasts from 5 to 5:05 p.m. during which the bar sells 5 cent Patron margaritas. The party is free admission and ends with a dance party. 701 Tchoupitoulas Street.

Margarita Mayhem

The sixth annual Margarita Mayhem is happening on Sunday at Deja Vieux Food Park. The event promises margaritas (and beer) specials and Latin-inspired food with multiple food trucks. The party runs from 3 to 11 p.m. with DJ Mike Swift & DJ G-Cue providing the music. Tickets start at $10 (plus a service fee). 2040 St. Charles Avenue.

The Velvet Cactus in Lakeview (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Velvet Cactus

The Velvet Cactus, “a Mexican dive and funky Art Joint” in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood on the thriving Harrison Avenue corridor, celebrates Cinco de Mayo with its annual fiesta. The party begins on Sunday, May 5 at 11 a.m. and lasts until 10 p.m. Enjoy the ambiance with margaritas throughout the afternoon while a DJ spins some tunes from 1 to 4 p.m. Live music begins at 4:30 p.m. by Cypress Pop Trio, a local acoustic cover band. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., catch Groovy 7, another local cover band. 6300 Argonne Boulevard.

A mariachi band at Top Taco (photo courtesy of Top Taco)
A mariachi band at Top Taco (photo courtesy of Top Taco)

Un Poquito Mas

New Orleans is jam-packed with Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants so no matter what you are looking for on Cinco de Mayo, or any day of the year, there are plenty of options to choose from. While it doesn’t take place on Cinco de Mayo, we couldn’t resist including Top Taco, scheduled for Thursday, May 16. Top Taco is a ticketed festival in which professional taco- and tequila cocktail-makers battle it out for the “top” in a variety of categories: Top Creative Taco, Top Traditional Taco, Top Margarita, and Top Creative Cocktail. Guests can munch on unlimited tacos and sip on tequila, cocktails, Modelo beer, and Micheladas (sort of like a Mexican Bloody Mary but with beer) while enjoying music and rooting on their favorite luchador. Woldenberg Park (1 Canal Street). Don’t forget to toast the Mexican way: “¡Arriba (glass up), abajo (glass down), al centro (glass in the center), pa’ dentro (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 around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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