Contrary to popular perception, Cinco de Mayo (or the 5th of May) is not Mexico's Independence Day. Rather, the holiday commemorates a victory that took place in the state of Puebla wherein the Mexican Army defeated French forces.
All that matters not the slightest to the margarita-drinking, taco-eating merrymakers who seize the day as occasion to joyously celebrate America's Mexican heritage.
Here are some places to catch the spirit:
Authenticity and creativity coexist at this atmospheric Mexican spot where a live band will play from 9:30 p.m. on Friday night. Both Friday and Saturday, there will be margarita and Corona beer specials as well as half price appetizers at the bar. Among Cinco de Mayo dining room specials will be chili en nogada: poblano chilies stuffed with ground beef, served with three sauces and garnished with pomegranate seeds. The traditional holiday dish is in the colors of the Mexican flag.
Popular with families, this freewheeling Tex-Mex eatery will stage a weekend-long party. Expect food and drink specials, along with prizes and gift certificates for revelers. A food and tequila tasting will be held Friday night, when both a psychic and a master Chinese paper cutter will provide entertainment.
At this splashy new Mexican showplace, the holiday kicks off on Friday with happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., entailing drink specials and a DJ; bar festivities continue on Saturday night as well, with giveaways and entertainment. Both nights, parties of six or more can reserve a table in the backroom for a $49 three-course prix-fixe family-style meal. The main course is a "Mexi-cue" of roasted chicken, barbecued ribs, sliced steak and grilled shrimp; each table gets two pitchers of sangria, one red, one white. Finally, on Sunday, "family fun day," a mariachi band will perform.
Friday night, this attractive cantina, the sole New York branch of a small national chain, will host an outdoor bash that kicks off early in the evening. The parking lot will be roped off and a live band will be followed by a DJ. While a pig roasts on a spit, pork tacos and chicken flautas will be sold, as will Dos Equis beer and sangria. Indoors, the regular menu will prevail. No reservations will be taken that night.
The two branches of Besito are the high end of Mexican fare in Nassau and Suffolk. Excellent guacamole made tableside, and fine chili relleno, fish Vera Cruz, tortilla pie with shellfish, tortilla soup, flautas, enchiladas. Try the seviche and the fish tacos, too.
296 Main St., Huntington
Alejandro and Maria Gonzalez' colorful, bilevel dining spot will feature free samples of classic Mexican dishes, such as tamales and mole, as well as tastes of tequila. There will also be live music and dancing.
At the bar of this funky, ultracasual Tex-Mex spot, Corona buckets will go for $20, while pitchers of sangria will be $30. All day, frozen margaritas will be half price. There will also be live music from 7 to 10 p.m. The dining area will feature such specials as carnitas tacos with habanero red onions and carne asada, or grilled marinated steak, with ancho black bean sauce. Also, all fajitas, usually $16 to $21, will go for $15.
Casual, friendly Gold Mine Mexican Grill in Greenlawn is recommended for eating in and taking out. Enjoy the burritos, quesadillas, tamales, taco bowl salads, chicken stew, chargrilled steak, pretty much whatever you have in mind.
Savory food defines Oaxaca, a downtown Huntington mainstay. Sample any of the combinations of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, taquitos, tacos; the ropa vieja, pozole and black bean soups, mole Oaxaca, chicken chimichanga, nachos deluxe. Easygoing and generous.