Photograph: Martha WilliamsDuck carnitas taco at Taco Joint

Cinco de Mayo 2011: Where to celebrate in Chicago

Mexican restaurants (and non-Mexican restaurants) go all out on May 5th.


Atwood Café At this State Street stalwart, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t just happen on the 5th—it happens all month long, when, from 8–10pm every evening, the restaurant offers a $40 Pilsen-inspired tasting menu. Dishes range from crispy pork belly tamales and smoked tomato gazpacho to wood-grilled bison and horchata churros. 1 W Washington St (312-368-1900, atwoodcafe.com). Breakfast (Mon–Sat), brunch (Sun), lunch (Mon–Sat), dinner. Average main course: $25.

Cactus Bar How do traders do Cinco? You’ll find out if you hit up this financial district bar on the 5th, when the bar’s staff will don sombreros, a “roaming DJ” will weave through the crowd, and Dos Equis will be $20 a bucket. (You’ll need those beers to wash down the Baja shrimp cocktail, nachos and tacos.) 404 S Wells St (312-922-3830, dontdrinkandtrade.com). Average cocktail: $6.

Carnivale At Chicago’s most massive pan-Latin spot, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with special dishes courtesy of executive chef David Dworshak. Among them: guatape de camaron (a spicy shrimp soup), seafood salad (of shrimp, octopus and halibut), torta del mar seafood cake and mixiote de puerco (Maple Creek pork shoulder served with a pork-belly tamale). 702 W Fulton St (312-850-5005, carnivalechicago.com). Average main course: $24.

Mercadito Cinco de Mayo at this taco-and-tequila parlor means three things: the restaurant’s menu of tacos (carnitas with coleslaw and peanuts; crispy fish tacos); live music; and pitchers of the Missionary (Repo)sition, a punch made with reposado tequila, red wine–pear syrup and lots of citrus. 108 W Kinzie St (312-329-9555, mercaditorestaurants.com). Average share plate: $10.

Moe's Cantina Check out Moe’s River North location for some live folk music by Sones De Mexico Ensemble, whose performance includes 25 instruments, four-part vocals and acrobatic dance. There’s no cover charge, and there's free sombreros. 6pm. 155 W. Kinzie St (312-245-2000, moescantina.com).

Pioneer Tavern Group (Lottie's Pub, The Pony, Frontier) If you’re really looking for some serious Cinco De Mayo celebrating, hop on Pioneer Tavern Group’s first annual "Cinco de Mayo Dos Equis Trolley Pub Crawl." Two free trolleys stocked up with Dos Equis beer will make stops at the three bar locations, with drink specials at each. Hop on the trolley at either Lottie’s (1925 W Cortland Ave, 773-489-0738, lottiespub.com) at 7pm, The Pony (1638 W Belmont Ave, 773-828-5055, theponychicago.com) at 8pm or Frontier (1072 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-772-4322, thefrontierchicago.com).

Salud Tequila Lounge
As in years past, Salud celebrates the 5th with an 11-hour street fest. It all starts at 3pm with performances courtesy of MaZi Dance Fitness Center, a ten-piece salsa band and, of course, street food such as carne asada tacos. The party moves indoors at 10pm, but continues until 2am with Salud’s resident DJs. 1471 N Milwaukee Ave (773-235-5577, saludlounge.com). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Suggested donation for admission: $5.

Taco Joint Duck carnitas tacos. Do we need anything more on Cinco de Mayo? Actually, yes: We need the birria (lamb and pork) taco, too. Come to think of it, the cochinita (pork paired with pickled onions) is necessary as well. Cinco de Mayo wouldn’t be the same without cocktails, which is why margaritas and palomas tonight are $5. 1969 N Halsted St (312-951-2457, tacojoint.com). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Armitage; Red to North/Clybourn. Bus: 8, 72, 73. Lunch, dinner. Average taco: $3.

Totopo Mexican Grill Find your way to Totopo at the Oak Brooke Promenade to take advantage of chef Dudley Nieto’s special Cinco de Mayo menu, which includes a drink, entrée and dessert. 11:00am – 9:00pm (regular lunch and dinner menus will also be available). 3041 Butterfield Rd., suite 117, Oak Brook (630-573-8686, totopomexicangrill.com).

Zocalo Restaurant and Tequila Bar Live mariachi music, drink specials ($5 Margaritas, $5 Palomas) as well as a special tacos and tortas menu ranging from $3-$7 are just a few of the reasons to head to this River North restaurant on Thursday. Not to mention: You could be the lucky winner of a free bottle of Herradura Tequila. 11:30am–11pm. 358 W Ontario St, 312-302-9977, zocalochicago.com)

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