Get your ¡Ole! on at a variety of spots around the county today as Mexican-themed and other restaurants pull out the stops for their loco American neighbors.
Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s biggest day – certainly not their Independence Day (Sept. 16) as many think. It’s actually a time when soldiers raised a glass to toast their comrades – a poorly outfitted troop, much smaller than the French army they took on at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The Mexican militia whipped the French, boosting the morale of the country and living on in legends handed down for generations.
Americans and the tequila makers, never ones to shy away from celebrations or a marketing moment, seized the occasion and made it their own.
A number of places will pour tequila like agua, have mariachi bands, and silly sombrero- and serape-clad types around for the mostly fake ambience.
But what the heck – it’s good enough reason for a theme party, so here are the spots you can get in on them and what I know about them.
Cantina Laredo – I recently was invited to sample a great deal of the fare at this restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens’ Midtown. Nothing at all wrong with their margaritas, but we thought the mojito was one of the best we’ve ever had. Perfumey fresh mint, fresh lime, and a sugarcane swizzle – and the perfect small amount of sugar as it should be. (Be sensible – don’t expect that today with the nutty crowds.) But for noshing with it, go with the endless basket of chips, their housemade pico de gallos and the top shelf guacamole. The latter is made at the table and is all up to you – how spicy and chunky do you like it? Direct the maker to the perfection you seek – the avocados are ripe. The Carnitas – the braised pork shank topped with a chipotle-wine sauce showed the complexity of flavors brought out by the slow cooking.
Today, though, for Cinco de Mayo, they start the fiesta grande with a live band and dancers – Tairon Aguiera y Latin Beat. The restaurant and courtyard are set up to host the crowds with a ton of giveaways and prizes. $5 Cinco Mas ‘Ritas.
Cantina Laredo – 4635 PGA Blvd., Midtown, Palm Beach Gardens; 561-622-1223
Rocco’s Tacos – Did you read my story in The Florida Weekly about the tortilla maker who makes Rocco’s corn tortillas by hand – the traditional way? It’s attention to detail and a passion for tequila that makes Rocco Mangel, one of the owners, so popular with his fans. In previous years, he bused a group of groupies between his three restaurants (West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton) – now that he has four, he’s floating on his own between them, and letting the fans rock their own favorite locale. There’s a $1000 mustache contest for best ‘stache that shows up; a big street party on Clematis Street and in the parking lots and courtyards of his others. Live bands, shot girls, bar-top dancing – maybe a burro or two munching hay. You never know with Rocco.
Rocco’s Tacos is in Palm Beach Gardens in the Commons on PGA Blvd.; Downtown West Palm Beach on Clematis Street and Boca Raton’s Town Center on Military Trail. roccostacos.com
Cha Cha’s – The only Mexican in the town of Palm Beach, and a sibling to Cucina dell’Arte – a popular club after-hours – will “go all out,” according to their post. This is Palm Beach – so it’s $10 for bottomless Corona Light beers or housemade sangria – your choice. Endless Margaritas are $25. A live DJ will spin and keep the party going.
Cha Cha’s is on the second level at 150 Worth Ave., Palm Beach. chachaspalmbeach.com
Uncle Julio’s – In Boca’s Mizner Park, this small Tex-Mex chain has a unique guacamole menu – order the three-pepper spicy style (for hot-heads only – it has habaneros), the pineapple bacon guacamole for a fruity-savory spin on the dip, or a full-fledged almost meal with the roasted corn and lump crab. Freshly made tortillas here (machine-made) are another key. Their signature is a big flavored stuffed shrimp dish – the Camarones Brochette are stuffed with cheese and jalapenos, wrapped in bacon and grilled over mesquite. Housemade Mexican “butter” is dribbled around the sizzling and smoking platter. And if you can resist their sopapillas for dessert, you’re a better woman than I. Look for a live band, salsa dancing in the street and free-flowing tequila (not free, really, but free-flowing).
Uncle Julio’s is at 449 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. unclejulios.com
Among the many other Mexican chain spots that will offer something in the way of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, here are some locally owned Mexican cantinas and restaurants to consider.
- Aleyeda’s Mexican, 1890 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.
- Amigos Mexican Spanish Restaurant, 4720 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
- La Fogata, 924 Northlake Blvd., N. Palm Beach, also La Fogata, 11924 West Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington
- La Bamba, 4285 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach
- Rosalita’s Tex-Mex, 5949 S. Congress Ave., Atlantis
- Cabo Flats, 11701 Lake Victoria Ave., (Downtown at the Gardens), Palm Beach Gardens