As I told my readers last year, Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1863. A lot of people think it’s Mexican Independence day, but that is just not the case! Independence day is September 16th, el diez y seis de septeimbre, that doesn’t sounds as cool as cinco de mayo, does it?

In honor of this special day I am going to give you a run down of some Mexican places in D.C. where you can celebrar the fact that the Mexicans did win on cinco de mayo, but then the French ultimately defeated them and Emperor Maximilian (Austrian) took the throne a few months later. Ay de mi!

Lauriol Plaza: I thought I’d start with the obvious, Lauriol. On warm nights it is absolutely hopping, the wait is long and their signature swirly margaritas (half strawberry half regular) are flowing like agua. Once you finally do get a table try and get one on the covered roof. It’s aire condicionadoed and super nice in the summer. The food at Lauriol is just fine, but nothing to write home about. They’ve got all your classic Mexican dishes and some good salads. You go here for the atmosphere and the margaritas, not the culinary genius. If you want to change it up sometime, try a frozen mango margarita. Buens.

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Cactus Cantina: Not as many people know about Lauriol’s sister restaurant Cactus Cantina. It’s up on Wisconsin and Macomb Street, near Two Amy’s and Barfology (don’t go there). Our former President Bushie said it was the best attempt at Tex-Mex outside of Texas and went their regularly. I really like the place, the menu is pretty much the same as Lauriol right down to the swirly margs, but you don’t have to wait as long. They have less outdoor space, but they do have enough patio seating for warm days. They alos have a large bar area, which Lauriol lacks. A bonus is that they make their tortillas from an old fashioned tortilla press that greets you as you walk in the door.

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Alero: Alero has three locations in DC, one in Dupont Circle, one on U st, and one in Cleavland Park. I’ve only been the the Dupont location. I argue that Alero has better food and better prices than Lauriol. Their margaritas are great and their sangria is strong. It’s a perfectplace to go when you are in the mood for Mexican, and don’t want to wait two hours for a table at Lauriol. They don’t have any outside seating, but that doesn’t really matter. Plus, there is never a wait – rare for a spot in Dupont. I’m sure their other locations can say the same!

Guajillo Grill: This is a hidden gem in Courthouse (Arlington). I went for the first time last month and wish I’d been there sooner. The food is wonderful, they have more authentic dishes, such as mole ,and do a great job with all their sauces. The sangria was some of the best I’ve had in DC and the margaritas (we had them on the rocks), were about the same as anywhere. This place really stands out for it’s cuisine, they always get voted “best enchiladas in DC” and are always packed. The atmosphere has a tropical feel and the service is friendly and fast. It’s worth the trek to Arlington and if you already live in VA, vamos ahora!

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El Tamarindo: This place is right near my house and sadly I’ve never been! I always walk by it and look longingly into the windows, wishing someone wanted to go there with me. It’s right on the corner of Florida Ave and U St, a pretty large restaurant and always is bustling. The cuisine is El Salvadorain and Mexican, meaning basically all Mexican except papusas. It never looks packed, but people tell me the food is great and the drinks are greater. There’s not usually a wait, the service is good, and I’ll be going there soon. Who wants to come?

Casa Oaxaca: Another place that is right near my house, but I’ve never been! Rachel and MScott said it was great. Never a wait, small plates and large plates, reasonable prices, and good drinks. They also are pros at accommodating big groups.

Mexicali Blues: This is another Arlington spot, right near the Clarendon Metro. It was one of the first restaurants I ever went to in DC because my first landlord owned the place. When we moved in he gave us a gift certificate as a housewarming present. They have a lot of outdoor seating when the weather is nice, but it’s pretty small inside, so it’s always packed. The drinks are great and they always have happy hour specials. The food is just your regular Mexican, nothing to write home about, but I’ve never had anything bad. Sadly, my old landlord no longer owns the place, he sketched out and moved to Egypt. However, even though it’s changed ownership, nothing else has changed!

So mis amigos, this post makes me want to go get some enchiladas and swirly margs stat. Maybe I’ll see you out and about tonight celebrating Cinco. Next year I’ll do a run-down of Boston establishments, but I don’t know if Boston can beat Lauriol’s “scene.”

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Felicidades!

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