Cinco de Mayo, or Fifth of May, is popularly thought to be Mexico's Independence Day. Actually, the holiday commemorates a victory by the Mexican army over French forces. It all happened back in 1862 in the state of Puebla.
Today, on Long Island, any reason to celebrate Mexican heritage and Latin pride is a reason that works, especially when it involves eating and drinking -- in festive, South of the Border fashion, of course.
Consider the taco as the ideal Cinco de Mayo food. Even with a margarita in one hand, you can easily pick up a taco with the other. One bite unleashes the synergy of soft corn tortillas enfolding juicy spiced meat or fish and, perhaps, some chopped tomato, onion and cilantro. Add some hot sauce, if you like, and -- if going truly authentic -- sliced radish and a squirt of lime.
Here are some Long Island tacos worth getting your hands on to celebrate the holiday.
At this genuine Mexican eatery, you can get all manner of soft corn tacos, including tacos de lengua, piled with succulent cubes of beef tongue, plus all the fixings. ($2.25-$3.95 each)
At this counter-service spot, roasted spiced chicken thighs are the filling of choice for soft corn tacos. Top, perhaps, with bright tomato salsa fresca, roasted chili-corn salsa and chopped cilantro. (3 for $6.99 to $7.99)
CARACARA MEXICAN GRILL
At this inventive Mexican spot, soft corn tacos may be ordered with chicken, steak, shrimp or fish. Each works well; get them three to an order, or as a combination plate with one of each. (3 for $15-$17; combination plate, 4 for $18)
19 W. Main St., Bay Shore, 631-647-8907, picotequilagrill.com
Admirably, corn tortillas are house-made here, but you have to request them. A "street" taco with grilled beef, salsa verde, onion and cheese is a treat. So, too, is a taco of pork, pico de gallo and avocado sauce. ($3.50 to $4.25 each)
3725 Middle Country Rd., Calverton, 631-591-2474
Authenticity rules at this Mexican restaurant, where all manner of tacos -- including those stuffed with pig's ear, tripe and tongue -- excel. ($3 each)
31 S. Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck, 516-466-0011, senornachony.com
Street tacos here mean soft corn tortillas piled with your choice of filling, showered with cilantro and served with lime and sliced radishes. Best is the succulent tongue and spicy pork al pastor, featuring rotisserie-roasted marinated meat. ($3 each)
169 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-586-8646, chichimecasrestaurant.com
This bi-level Farmingdale Mexican restaurant serves authentic soft corn tacos al pastor, with roasted spice-coated pork, chopped onion and cilantro. Other choices, too. ($2.25-$2.95 each)
66 Larkfield Rd., East Northport, 631-262-9704
Fine soft-corn tacos are the rule here. There's juicy beef tongue, smoky crisp carnitas (pork) and a fish taco made with lightly breaded red snapper topped with cabbage and pico de gallo. ($2.95 to $3.25 each)