Step away from the sombrero there, guy.
This weekend is Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that, in Mexico, is... actually not one of the bigger celebrations. But for whatever reason, it caught on in the U.S. of A. as an excuse for poncho-wearing college kids to binge-drink Jose Cuervo, screams of "OLE!" exploding from beneath fake mustaches.
Don't do this.
Now, if you wanted to celebrate the day without dressing up as an offensive stereotype? One really good thing you could do would be to visit the Cinco de Mayo Festival in St. Paul, a fun, family-friendly afternoon that commemorates the West Side's Mexican heritage. And if you are in the mood for margs and tacos, there's another great way to go: Patronize Mexican- and Mexican-American-owned bars and restaurants. We've rounded up nine here—many of which are even offering deals on the day.
Couldn't agree more with Durango's motto: "Sin pastel, tu fiesta no es fiesta." At this family-run bakery in Northeast, owners Germain and Sara Perez oversee a small but passionate team whose conchas and tres leches mini cakes will keep you from having a sad Cinco. Pick up a loaf of fresh bread while you're there—Durango has more than 80 varieties. 2418 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612-706-7950, durangobakerymn.com
El Burrito Mercado
This year's City Pages Best Mexican Restaurant pick is helmed by CEO Milissa Silva-Diaz, a self-proclaimed diversity advocate who's helped build El Burrito Mercado into a multimillion-dollar marketplace. This weekend, her St. Paul staple is celebrating #WestSideCinco with two days of tacos, elotes, karaoke, and bucket beer specials—and oh yeah, hand-rolled cigars. It all starts at 5 p.m. on the 4th. 175 Cesar Chavez St. #2, St. Paul; 651-227-2192, elburritomercado.com
Hamburguesas el Gordo
If you haven't had one yet, we absolutely endorse eating the hulking, Mexican-street-food-style Del Gordo burger at Hamburguesas el Gordo. “That’s how we make 'em back there," owner Claudia Gutierrez once told City Pages. "We don’t make 'em small.” Good. We don't eat 'em small, either. 990 Payne Ave. St. Paul or 4157 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; gordoburgers.com
We'd be remiss to leave this St. Paul institution—open since 1964—off of any Cinco list. Why's that? Well, for one, operations manager Jose Frias' late father, Alfredo (who just passed away last month), was a founding member of the Cinco de Mayo West Side Festival, which Jose is still on the planning committee for. "My mission is to bring the culture, flavor and beauty of Mexico into recognition to the general public just as my father envisioned," he tells us today. If you head to the festival, might as well give Boca Chica a visit, too. 11 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul; 651-222-8499, bocachicarestaurant.com
La Loma Tamales
Before moving to the United States with "a dream and a recipe," Noelia and Enrique Garcia met and married in their tiny Mexican hometown of Quebrantadero. On Saturday, your dreams come true at their Midtown Global Market location, where they'll serve up dollar tacos all day. 120 East Lake St. Suite 102, Minneapolis; 612-728-9591, laloma.com
Salsa a la Salsa
Salsa a la Salsa's Nicollet Avenue location likely isn't long for this world; as owner Lorenzo Ariza told us last month, there's a good chance they're getting bumped to make way for redevelopment. He's not sure if they'll reopen another non-Midtown location, so say your goodbyes with a five-dollar house marg all day long on the 5th. 1420 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612-813-1970, salsaalasalsa.com
The tacos and tamales coming out of this family-run scratch kitchen in Northeast are among the best in the Twin Cities—and with a recently opened outpost in Roseville, you can get 'em in the burbs, too. Victor Martinez and his wife, Isela Perez, are bringing the deals on Saturday: In Northeast, you can down $3 lime margaritas, $2 flautas, and $10 chicken fajitas and enchiladas at the bar, plus dollar chips and guac on the fast-casual side all day. In Roseville? Grab two-for-one lime margaritas, two-for-one draft beers, and $5 nachos and quesadillas. 1840 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis and 10 Rosedale Shopping Center, Roseville; facebook.com/mayacuisine
La Familia Tapatia
La Familia Tapatia really is a familia affair: Owner and executive chef Martha Leticia runs the show; her sons, Abraham and Armando Ponce, are owner-operator and head cook, respectively; their sister, Sandra, often runs the register. At their newly opened Roseville shop—the brick-and-mortar counterpart to the El Tapatio food truck—Abraham tells us they'll have Cinco deals including $2 elotes (Mexican-style corn on the cob) and $4 esquites (Mexican-style corn in a cup). 1237 Larpenteur Ave. W., Roseville; 651-253-6175, lafamiliatapatia.com
La Fresca (or Cafe Ena, or Rincón 38, or Costa Blanca Bistro)
Here's where we'll let you in on a secret: Hector Ruiz's four Minneapolis restaurants—La Fresca, Cafe Ena, and Rincón 38 in South; Costa Blanca Bistro in Northeast—are consistently, quietly some of the best around. Ruiz marries his Mexican heritage with formal French training on each seafood-focused menu. The result? Tapas and platos fuertes you'll eat in unassuming but charming surrounds, and think about for weeks to come. Any of the four is worth a visit (technically bringing our list to 12), though La Fresca is the gem we sang the praises of most recently. 4750 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-825-4142; lafrescampls.com