By Mark G. McLaughlin
Unlike the residents of so many towns and cities around the country, Los Angelitos actually know what they are celebrating on Cinco de Mayo. It is not, as many erroneously believe, Mexican independence day. Cinco de Mayo is instead a way to honor the heroic citizens of Puebla who defended their city against French invaders in 1862. Although the French came back two years later to storm and sack Puebla, that only makes the stand by the Mexican people in the first fight all that more heroic. So this May 5th – which in Spanish is Cinco de Mayo- the people of Los Angles have plenty of opportunities to party or parade or both. Here are just five of the best ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles.
Cinco de Mayo at Olvera Street
125 Paseo De La Plaza
North Alameda and Olvera Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Olvera Street is the heart of the historic Mexican marketplace area, an historical district in the heart of the city which recreates the look, feel and flavor of Old California. Directly across from Union Station, this collections of street, which are known also as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, is the perfect place for Californians and visitors of Mexican heritage to celebrate what the people of Puebla were fighting for in 1862. It is also the most authentic spot in the city for anyone who just wants to take part in the festivities – which here, last for three days. The party kicks off with live music and dancing in the plaza on Friday night, and continues through Saturday and most of Sunday, with more music, dancing, authentic folk performers and even pinatas for kids. There are lots of things to see and do in this historic district, and the celebration there is truly a Cinco de May for the whole family, and not just those of Mexican heritage.
Guelaguetza Mexican Restaurant
3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
For those who want a family-friendly, and especially kid-friendly yet still authentic atmosphere to mark Cinco de Mayo, the Guelaguetza Mexican Restaurant on West Olympic Boulevard is the place to go. This is not Tex-Mex or street food, but traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Their official website doesn’t have the name of the restaurant, but just simply states “I love mole” – and with good reason, for it is some of the best mole sauce in the area. It is also a boutique Mexican market – in the middle of Koreatown, no less – and fans of true Mexican cooking come from all around to enjoy their extensive menu of traditional Oaxacan tlayudas, empanadas, mole sauce and barbacoa dishes. They have a full menu of seafood, vegetarian and meat dishes – including Barbacoa Roja de Chivo (a traditional goat stew). The party starts early here, as they serve breakfast until 2pm, and reservations for the dinner service are a must.
El Coyote Restaurant
7312 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
When El Coyote bills itself as “The Best Mexican Cafe in L.A.” that is no mere boast. Since 1931 this has been the place to go for classic Mexican combination platters. The food is wonderful, highly affordable, and is served in an delightfully quaint establishment where the Christmas lights stay up all year long. For a fun and very affordable Cinco de Mayo dinner (or morning after brunch, as they open at 1130 a.m.), El Coyote with its signature shrimp fajitas is a must. When it comes to Mexican food this place, as their website also proclaims, is truly “the whole enchilada.”
Hecho en LA:Taco Madness
La Plaza de Cultura y Artes
501 North Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Date: Saturday, May 5 from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
What would Cinco de Mayo be without tacos? They are the perfect Mexican street food to eat on the go as people party and play outside the Mexican-American heritage museum at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, but the mighty taco will have a lot of competition from the other street food vendors in their carts and trucks. This event is an adult party, however, as there will be plenty of beer and margaritas and tequila to wash down the tacos, burritos, chimichangas and other Mexican food, some of which will be prepared by master chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants. DJs will provide the music so partygoers can dance from 6 p.m. until midnight.
Cinco de Mayo Hollywood Pub Crawl
1624 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Date: Saturday, May 5 from 3 p.m. until Sunday, May 6 at 2 a.m.
There are no shortage of bars and clubs in Hollywood, and every Cinco de Mayo (and the night before) those establishments welcome participants in the annual Cinco de Mayo Hollywood Club Crawl. The crawling starts at The Outpost, a bar best known for its Western themed menu and décor (and darn fine BBQ). Registration is a must, as the limited number of participants get VIP passes that let them into a long list of clubs and bars not only without a coverage charge, but with special drinks at special prices.