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Where to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles

Los Angeles does everything bigger. So it would make sense that LA is home to the largest Cinco de Mayo street festival in the world, Fiesta Broadway. But, bad news, that was last weekend on April 24. Good news, the Olvera Street Cinco de Mayo fair is this weekend. LA Cinco is a Saturday and Sunday music, food, and cultural arts festival that honors the heritage of LA’s past, while embracing the spirit of the multicultural pillars that represent the heartbeat of today’s Los Angeles. But, hey, maybe you would actually like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo on, you know, Cinco de Mayo. We’ve got you covered.

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As one of the US’s favorite ways to celebrate Mexico’s cultural heritage, cuisines, beers and mezcals, there will be food and drink specials all over the city. Below is a list featuring some of me and my friend’s favorite Mexican restaurants and bars from longstanding institutions to newer hotspots to casual taquerias to maybe not so authentic but fun party palaces. We’ve compiled a big list, but we’re always looking for fresh ideas and out of the way gems we may not have heard of. What are some of your favorites?

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LA Cinco, Olvera Street – The Cinco de Mayo festival at Olvera Street is a celebration of Mexico’s 1862 victory over French troops in the town of Puebla. The festival takes place for two days over Cinco de Mayo weekend and is host to mariachi bands, folklorico dancers, piñata games and other traditional Mexican activities. For fans of Mexican cuisine, the festival typically offers dishes popular in Puebla such as mole poblano, cemitas and tingas served on tostadas.

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Baja Cantina, Marina del Rey – More of an after-the-beach margarita haven than anything else, this always bumping cantina is inspired by the beachfront saloons of Cabo San Lucas. Baja Cantina overlooks the Marina and its world class yachts. Dining options include Mexican specialties, seafood, salads, and standard American options like burgers, fries, and pizza.

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Casa Vega, Sherman Oaks – One of Los Angeles’s oldest, most authentic, and most storied Mexican restaurants, Casa Vega is family-owned and was established in 1956. They have drink specials most weeks (like their recent $0.60 cent margaritas to celebrate their 60th anniversary) and a killer happy hour.

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Casita del Campo, Silver Lake – Perhaps the fact that this is Silver Lake’s last remaining authentic Mexican restaurant makes it the most charming. With home grown Mexican dishes, live entertainment on weekends, and a predominantly gay and/or hipster clientele, Casita del Campo can lift your spirits and delight your senses for a very reasonable price.

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Cielito Lindo, Olvera Street – Stroll Olvera Street on Thursday evening and then stop by this legendary 1934 taquito stand for their world famous taquitos. Perhaps the most inexpensive option on this list (they do not serve liquor), this is an excellent choice for Cinco de Mayo and a must for any card carrying Angeleno.

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El Arco Iris, Highland Park – Another longtime Los Angeles family owned establishment, El Arco Iris has been serving Highland Park and the surrounding neighborhoods since 1964. Whether you like your burritos wet or dry, they’re big enough to share. El Arco Iris also boasts an excellent bar with extensive tequila and beer offerings. Happy hour from 3pm to 6pm!

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El Carmen, Third Street – This whimsical cantina serves a varied menu of Mexican eats, tequilas, and beers. It’s also one of Third Street’ most popular and colorful bar destinations, really, any night of the week. Their Hora de Fiesta includes $5 margaritas, $2 guacamole, and $3 beers.

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El Chavo, Silver Lake – Recently revamped and redesigned, El Chavo is still Silver Lake’s and Los Feliz’s most popular neighborhood dive, maybe for that amazing outdoor patio alone. They are pulling out all the stops this Cinco de Mayo. Let me let them describe it: “This is how we celebrate: The only way EL CHAVO knows how – Live music, street corn, street TACOS, Cervezas, Mezcal, Tequila, FROZEN PALOMAS, OHH AND MARGARITAS…  Join us – Do something crazy. Bring neighbors together, meet new friends, take a shot with a stranger.”

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El Compadre, Echo Park, Hollywood, Downtown – A favorite spot for locals, if you like your classic Mexican plates and your margaritas flaming, this is the spot for you. There’s also live mariachi music nightly, and they’ll usually come straight to your table for a song, especially if you are on a romantic dinner for two.

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El Condor, Silver Lake – Also recently revamped and redesigned, El Condor – formerly El Conquistador – has pared down their modern menu and added a sleek new bar to the downstairs area. They’ve also expanded their hours and are now open until 2am every night, making this hip restaurant and bar a favorite in Silver Lake. Happy Hour is 5-7pm.

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El Coyote, Fairfax District – This landmark cantina on Beverly Boulevard has a long and storied Hollywood history. Sharon Tate had her last meal here before the infamous Manson murders in 1969. But don’t let that fact deter you. The vibe is casual, the service is excellent, and the margaritas are doubly stiff.

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El Huarache Azteca, Highland Park – Another great option if you’re looking for delicious, authentic, and cheap Mexican food without the drinks. El Huarache Azteca has been buzzing on Highland Park’s hip York Boulevard for years.
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Don Antonio’s, Sawtelle – Darkly lit and intimate, Don Antonio’s is a longtime LA favorite. Family owned and operated, Don Antonio’s has been serving up authentic Mexican cuisine since 1982. You may have a hard time finding the hostess stand, but you can’t miss the vibrant atmosphere, good times and great food.

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Gracias Madre, West Hollywood – Sometimes you want your Mexican meatless and organic and, if so, Gracias Madre in West Hollywood delivers. Chic, Bohemian, and casual, Gracias Madre also has an expansive tequila and drink menu. Happy hour is 3-6pm.

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La Cuevita, Highland Park – Or Little Cave, La Cuevita is now a new, Old-World Mexican grotto set in the heart of the Highland Park on Figueroa Street, featuring traditional agave spirits. The bar showcases an impressive selection of beers, tequilas, and wine. Happy Hour, thankfully, lasts until 9pm.

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Las Perlas, Downtown – Dubbed “the nation’s first mezcal bar,” their Happy Hour lasts until 8pm and includes an $8 Tecate and shot of tequila or mezcal. This Oaxacan style cantina exists as a living tribute to Mexico’s native spirit, mezcal, with the finest selection of more than 120 premium agave spirits available in the United States.

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Lotería Grill, Hollywood, Studio City, Santa Monica – A favorite of many of us while shopping at The Farmer’s Market at The Grove, but have you been to their longtime Hollywood location? They’ll be celebrating the holiday by featuring margarita, michelada, and Mexican craft beer specials until 9pm. Also on the menu? Make your own piñata.

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Mercado, Santa Monica, Third Street, Hollywood – With over 70 options of tequila, this should be a Cinco de Mayo destination. They also boast an excellent and delicious Hora Feliz with $4 beers, $8 scratch margaritas, and $7 guacamole to feed a family.

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Mexico City, Los Feliz – A colorful and vibrant Mexican restaurant and celebrity hotspot (Hello, Brad Pitt), Mexico City is a favorite for locals and thrill seekers alike. Kid-friendly by day & hopping at night, the margaritas are made from scratch, always a welcome sign, even during Happy Hour.

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Petty Cash, Fairfax District – A lovely newer addition to LA’s Mexican dining scene and just down the street from El Coyote, the “semi-authentic” Petty Cash focuses on ceviche and cocktails. They offer a $20 mezcal tasting flight, $35 and $45 prix fixe meals, and a Happy Hour that includes $4 16oz Tecates and $5 margaritas.

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Pez Cantina, Downtown – “Coastal Mexican Cuisine.” This restaurant’s beach-inspired decor & a coastal-theme Mexican menu keep this sleek eatery relaxed and light. They’ll have live DJs from 6-8pm on Cinco de Mayo, drink and food specials at two bars, and a photo booth costume contest.

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Tito’s Tacos, Culver City – Perfect for carryout so you can celebrate the holiday in the comfort of your own home, Tito’s Tacos boasts some of the best tacos and burritos in the city. As they themselves say, it’s “fast food worth standing in line for.”

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Toca Madera, West Hollywood – This upscale, posh restaurant in West Hollywood has many vegan options and a happy hour that includes $4 beers, $8 bites, and $8 wines and margaritas.

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Velvet Margarita Cantina, Hollywood – This Hollywood lounge has an awesome happy hour until 8pm, a smoking patio, and usually a live music and DJs.

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Yxta Cocina Mexicana, Downtown – Yxta Cocina Mexicana (pronounced eeks’-tah) is the sister restaurant to El Arco Iris. Yxta’s bar pours over 55 premium silver, reposado, añejo and extra añejo tequilas. Their Happy Hour is 4pm to 7pm and includes $6 margaritas, $4 select beers, $5-9 bites.

Did I miss any of your favorite Mexican restaurants and bars? Let me know in the comments!

Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo!


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