5 Chicago Locations to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Tobias Roberts, May 1, 2018
While most people don’t really understand why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated, it certainly is a great excuse to eat some great Mexican food and enjoy a tequila cocktail. One common misconception is that it is a celebration of Mexican Independence, but is most importantly a Mexican commemoration of their victory over invading French troops back in 1862.
When you come to think of it though, us Americans don’t necessarily understand the historical implications of most festivities and holidays. Saint Patrick’s Day has something to do with the Irish and wearing green (along with a quality Guinness or other dark beer), while Thanksgiving is a chance to eat lots of turkey in remembrance of some sort of gathering with the early settlers and the Native American populations.
In the melting pot that is America, most of our festivities have become a celebration of our diversity. We might not know anything about the historical Saint Patrick, but we know that many of our red-haired friends have Irish ancestors and that they have contributed to what our society has become today. Similarly, while Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico with military parades, in the United States it has taken on a special significance that highlights and draws attention to the uniqueness of Mexican American culture.
With over 11% of the American population identifying as Hispanics of Mexican origin, most of us probably have a few friends or acquaintances that identify as Mexican. In Cook County alone, almost one million residents have full or partial Mexican origins. Even if we don’t have many Mexican-American friends, the Mexican influence on our popular culture is well engrained. Cinco de Mayo is a great excuse to celebrate the Mexican influence on what the city of Chicago has become. Below, we offer the top five places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the Windy City.
If you want a truly authentic Mexican cuisine experience, Mercadito doesn’t disappoint. Their location on River North offers the supposedly “hottest drink on earth” complete with a jalapeño that is on fire (yes, you read that right). Their signature late night menu is available after 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays so if you want some late-night food after a long night of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, this is the place to end up.
Address and Phone: 108 W. Kinzie St. 312-329-9555
If sticking to one restaurant or venue for your Cinco de Mayo celebration seems like a wasted opportunity to truly appreciate the goodness of Mexican food and drink, the Cinco de Mayo Trolley Crawl sponsored by The Pioneer Tavern Group will allow you to experience three great places (and menus). The free trolley runs continuously throughout the night and will take you between Lotties, The Pony, and Frontier, three premium restaurants with fantastic Mexican inspired cuisine. You can enjoy $5 elotes, $3 tacos, $6 margaritas and $3.50 Dos Equis beer.
Address and Phone: 1925 W. Cortland St. 773-489-0738
If you want a Cinco de Mayo experience that adds as bit of historical style, Roanoke Restaurant is set in a vintage 1913 building. The warm and inviting bar is a great place to enjoy $4 tequila shots or $7 margaritas. If you are hungry, their complete pollo rostizado is whole, roasted chicken farm raised by local Amish farmers and is served with real tortillas (not the cheap frozen type from the supermarket). They are only open until 10pm, so you can head here for your meal before checking out late-night bars for more Cinco de Mayo drinks.
Address and Phone: 135 W. Madison St. 312-940-3760
A true Cinco de Mayo celebration goes beyond food and drinks to give you the full, sensorial, Mexican experience. At Carnivale on W. Fulton Market, their Cinco de Mayo celebration this year includes Mariachi Monumental from Mexico along with traditional Chinelos Dancers. A $24 taco platter appetizer goes great with a $12 Hibiscus margarita. Their lunch specials run from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm before the fun begins at night.
Address and Phone: 702 W. Fulton Market 312-850-5505
Music, tacos, margaritas, and tequila sounds like a recipe for a successful Cinco de Mayo party and Blue Agave and Fernando’s Tequila Bar and Restaurant offers just that. They have various locations scattered around Chicago, so you should be able to find a nearby venue of theirs to enjoy tequila tastings, live mariachi bands, and great margaritas. No reservations are allowed, so make sure you show up early to take advantage of the first come, first serve offers.
Address and Phone: Several locations 312-335-8900
Or Try Your Hand at Your Own Cinco de Mayo Treats
Even though Cinco de Mayo falls on Saturday this year, heading out for a late night of Mariachi, tequila shots, and Margaritas might not be for everyone. If you prefer a more relaxing Cinco de Mayo celebration by inviting friends to your home but don’t want to settle for imitation tacos and Corona beer, you can either find a great catering service or try your hand at your own, home-cooked Mexican recipes.
Northern Fork is a Chicago-based catering and events company that specializes in delivering the best made from scratch seasonal menus. They have been serving the city of Chicago since 2003 and have plenty of experience with living up to the lofty standards of Chicago’s Mexican American population.
Make your own guacamole, elote salad, and Paloma margaritas.
A couple of bags of tortilla chips and you’ve got a quality setup for a great Cinco de Mayo celebration at home.