Every year, we read articles revealing the true origins of Cinco de Mayo. Nope, not Mexican Independence Day, which happens Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a minor battle in the state of Puebla in 1862 where an army of mostly Mexican Indians beat Napoleon III's French troops. The holiday isn't celebrated widely in Mexico. It only became popular in the U.S. during the 1970s when Chicano activists grasped the David-and-Goliath symbolism and gave the holiday a boost, recognizing a parallel to their own cause.
These articles generally lament that no one knows the real story, so maybe let's solve that problem by deeming the holiday "Comida de Mayo" and celebrating Mexican food. OK, maybe not. Either way, it's a terrific time to seek out the places to visit this Saturday where Cinco de Mayo really means something. In terms of the food, that is. A few ideas below, in alphabetical order, ranging from haute spots to parking lots.
From noon to 10 p.m., the recently opened Calle Tacos is bringing a mariachi band to complement its jalapeno margaritas and tacos, flautas, burritos, tortas and quesadillas. And a donkey, too -- why go to Tijuana when we have Hollywood, after all.
This Mexican restaurant open since 1958 serves its usual standards on Saturday, but continues the holiday on Sunday with $5 "Bloody Marias" and "Absolut Marys" for a "Seis de Mayo" brunch (huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, etc.) beginning at 11:30.
Hog ear, bird gizzard, wild boar and "mystery" tacos are on the menu at this Chinese-Mexican taco truck for "Feast of the Brave" sponsored by Dos Equis. Catch Don Chow in Culver City, Hollywood, Santa Monica or Venice between 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. (Check their Facebook page for exact locations and times.)
From 4 p.m.-2 a.m., the restaurant where neon-colored sombreros adorn the ceiling hosts "Cinco de Chavo" with DJ Cyrano spinning cumbia and salsa on the patio, $5 margaritas until 9 p.m., and a $10 combo plate option -- three tacos, rice, beans, plus a margarita or beer. No cover charge, 21+ only.
La Parilla decorates for each holiday year-round, St. Patrick's Day to Independence Day, and Cinco de Mayo is absolutely no exception. Experience mexicanidad in all its frilly, sparkly, shiny glory, at either the East L.A. or downtown location. With handmade tortillas, too.
Stop by Lula for free tequila tastings -- Dos XX Equis (12-2 p.m.), 901 (2-3:30 p.m.), Don Julio Blanco (4-5:30 p.m.), Cuervo Tradicional Reposado (6-7:30 p.m.) and Corallejo (6-7:30).
Move over, taco, the Churro Borough of Los Angeles is showing up at Mexicali from 6-10 p.m. with its churro ice cream sandwiches (flavors have included vanilla custard, spicy hot chocolate and Spanish latte) sold out of a baby blue cart.
Stroll (stagger?) up and down the streets of Old Town Pasadena, Huntington Beach, Santa Monica or Hollywood until 2 a.m. for beers ($2), tequila shots ($5) and two-for-one margaritas. Sombreros and sarongs encouraged. Tickets start at $5.
Start the festivities early with "Street Food Social Hour" running 3-6 p.m. in the tequila lounge and patio. The normally expensive restaurant is keeping the prices low -- cocktails at $8, wines at $7, beers at $5. For food, choose among oysters, ceviches, tacos al carbon, mini tostadas, sopes, taquitos, quesadillas and tamales. Full dinner service begins at 6 p.m.
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We're not yet sure what's on the special menu Rocio Camacho is crafting for Cinco de Mayo, nor the price. (The restaurant says information will be available Friday.) But at this eatery where moles reign and the nopales-infused tortilla chips are bright green, the details can wait. Just go.
Visit the Senor Fish in downtown's Little Tokyo for live music by Delu playing from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. Drink specials as well, por supuesto.