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 also has a past 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 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.
Local Mexican restaurants will commemorate the occasion with specials, drinks, and music around the city. Read on for our Cinco de Mayo top picks.
Cinco De Mayo in New Orleans
Araña Taqueria y Cantina
Araña Taqueria y Cantina celebrates Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, May 5. The restaurant is also home to the Araña Tequila Society, created to educate, entertain and engage tequila and Mezcal enthusiasts in New Orleans and beyond. Translation: get ready for some delicious, high quality drinks. During the festivities, Araña will have an outdoor bar from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. including specialty cocktails featuring Cazadores Tequila and Belle Isle Moonshine. Local musician Salvatore Geloso will provide the musical entertainment from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. No Cinco de Mayo fiesta would be complete without a piñata. Take a whack to win some prizes! 3218 Magazine Street.
Casa Borrega, which is co-owned by Mexico City native and artist Hugo Montero, hosts its annual Cinco de Mayo fiesta on Saturday, May 5 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Fredy Omar con su Banda, an award-winning Latin group, gets the music started at 6:00 p.m. while local rock band Dash Rip Rock carries the party into the evening beginning at 9:00 p.m. Casa Borrega will offer all day food and drink specials like carnitas, tamales, tostadas, and margaritas. 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.
Latin fusion restaurant Mayas will also host Mayas’ Cinco de Mayo this year on Saturday, May 5. The restaurant will be serving drinks, including avocado and blueberry-basil margaritas, as well as offer $3 beers and $4 shots. The restaurant is also giving out free Mayas t-shirts with reservations. The party starts at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 11:00 p.m. 2027 Magazine Street.
Mid-City Felipe’s Taqueria
Felipe’s Mexican Taquería in Mid-City expands its Cinco de Mayo fiesta to two days from Friday, May 4 through Saturday, May 5. The restaurant (and all Felipe’s locations) opens at 11:00 a.m. with music beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Friday with DJ Luilly and continuing with Muevelo from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. On Saturday, the music begins even earlier, with DJ Luilly on from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., followed by a performance by Ballet Folklórico Vive Mi Tierra at 4:30 p.m. Samba-Funk band Chegadão turns the party up from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and then Jose Fermin & Merengue 4 close it out from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. In addition to music, there will be a taco cart (with the restaurant’s award-winning tacos al pastor) and plenty of margaritas, cervezas, and more to go around. While the major fiesta is at Felipe’s Mid-City location, the Uptown and French Quarter locations will also have some festivities on Cinco de Mayo proper. 411 N. Carrollton Avenue.
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 another fiesta. The party begins on Saturday, May 5 at 11:00 a.m. Enjoy the ambiance with margaritas throughout the afternoon before live music begins at 4:00 p.m. by Da Hounds, a local Honky Tonk band. At 5:30 p.m. , dance to music, and then from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., catch Where Y’acht, a 70s and 80s cover band. 6300 Argonne Boulevard.
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:
- Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, which serves southern California-style Mexican food, is hosting its own Cinco de Mayo block party– Cinco Mania Derby Day. Watch the derby beginning at noon and stay into the evening for some Lucha Libre wrestling in a street-side ring. The party is free admission, and there will be plenty of food and drink specials, including $1 beef tacos and $3.50 Dos Equis beers.
- El Pavo Real is an unassuming Mexican restaurant in Broadmoor. Go for breakfast and order the chilaquiles or make a meal of small plates like tamales, empanadas, and black bean soup. Really craving some tacos? They’ve got you covered. 4401 S. Broad Avenue.
- El Patio, is the recently reopened and sister restaurant of La Casita. Enjoy the colorful ambiance along with some enchiladas with mole sauce, elote (Mexican street corn), and ceviche. They will also offer taco stands and margarita specials in honor of Cinco de Mayo. 845 Carondelet Street.
- Johnny Sánchez is spicing up the evening of Saturday, May 5 with some jams by DJ Lady B or NOLA Fleaux from 9:00 p.m. to midnight. Enjoy Mexican food and drinks accompanied by music. 930 Poydras Street.
Don’t forget to cheers 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!