Houston — By Christina Uticone on May 5, 2010 at 11:28 am
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Five Houston Spots for Cinco de Mayo

houston, cinco de mayo, margaritasCinco de Mayo is the annual celebration of Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and it is generally marked with parades and festivals,  food and drink.  For us bartenders, Cinco de Mayo is also known as “Amateur Night” (along with New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, and the night before Thanksgiving), a night when amateur partygoers go out with big intentions and end up one of two ways: in bed by 7 PM or calling in to work at 7 AM.  I am here to help you celebrate this holiday in Houston without hurting yourself.  Rule #1 – food.

Because Houston has such a strong Mexican cultural heritage, there are many excellent places to choose from.  Here are my top…five, of course!

Armandos

It’s all about atmosphere, it’s all about elegance, it’s all about the famous margarita.  People feel strongly about their margaritas; in my experience you’re either a Frozen or a Rocks, but never both.  Armandos serves them both ways so everyone wins.  The food is modern, but not fussy; streamlined, but traditional at the same time.  This is how grownups do Cinco de Mayo.

Where: 2630 Westheimer (map)

Hours: Sunday 11 AM-9 PM; Monday 4 PM-9 PM; Tuesday & Wednesday 4 PM-10 PM; Thursday-Saturday 4 PM-11 PM.

Price Point: Appetizers start at $5-$7; the Famous Margarita is $9, top shelf margaritas $12 and $18; entrees start at $10-$12.

Try: The fish tacos ($18).  Fish tacos were ubiquitous in Alaska and everyone should try them at least once!  I love seeing them on a menu.

Ninfa’s

Ninfa’s is Houston’s Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurant.  Established in 1973, it is a true Houston institution.  Ninfa boasts its own “famous margarita”, an original recipe called the “Navigation Ninfarita” that has endured since the beginning.  They must be pouring something right.

Where: 2704 Navigation Blvd. (map)

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 AM-10 PM; Friday 11 AM-11 PM; Saturday 10 AM-11PM; Sunday 10 AM-10 PM.

Price Point:  Appetizers start at $8; entrees at $12; famous margaritas are $6.95/glass or $23.95/pitcher.

Try: The margarita – a 30 year-old recipe is worth trying.  Follow it up with the May margarita special, the Blood Orange Margarita.

houston, cinco de mayo, tequilaCyclone Anayas Mexican Kitchen

The restaurant was opened by famed Mexican wrestler Cyclone Anayas and the family still runs the business.  There are three (soon-to-be four) Houston locations (and three in Dallas!) so no matter where you are staying in the city you can’t be far from delicious, “Fine Mex” dining.

Where: 5761 Woodway Dr. (map); 309 Gray St. (map); 1710 Durham Dr. (map); I-10 West & Sam Houston Pkwy. location to open in May).

Hours: Contact the restaurant for hours at a location near you.

Price Point: Appetizers start at $7; entrees at $13.

Try: Tex-Mex Summer Special Combo.  No need to choose – this plate includes an enchilada, a taco and a chalupa with guacamole.  Oh my.

Spanish Flowers Mexican Restaurant

Another long-standing Houston Mexican tradition, Spanish Flowers offers great food, plus the added bonus of  being open (are you ready?) twenty-four hours a day.  No kidding!  The restaurant closes for one eleven-hour period a week (Tuesday at 10 PM until Wednesday at 9 AM) and is serving food around the clock otherwise.

Where: 4701 North Main (map)

Hours: Open 24 hours except from 10 PM Tuesday evening until 9 AM Wednesday morning.

Price Point: There is always one breakfast special for $4.95; appetizers start at $5.25; entrees $8-$25.

Try: The Queso Flameado appetizer – melted cheese with homemade (!) chorizo and grilled onions ($9.75).  There is no competition when the sausage is homemade.  It’s a must.

Bodegas Taco Shop

Full discloser this my neighborhood Mexican restaurant, and it is where I’ll be spending Cinco de Mayo.  I love Bodegas because the ingredients are fresh, the service is fast, and the bottled beer is very, very cold.  The cafeteria-style, build-your-own (burritos, tacos, salads, tostadas, nachos, quesedilla, or “bowls”) is how “fast food” should be done.

Where: 1200 Binz (map) and the entrance is on Caroline St.

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 AM-10 PM; Friday & Saturday 11 AM-Midnight

Price Point:  Appetizers start at $4; entrees $4.95 and up.

Try: Their salsas – there are eleven to choose from and they are all delicious.  I love the Papaya Habenero.

As always, let me remind you to designate a driver before heading out for a big night on the town.  The rest of my “Feel Great on May 6″ plan is simple: water before bed, water when you rise…and leftover Mexican food for breakfast.

Photo credit: SXC (1, 2)

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    3 Comments

  • Katrina Verweel says:

    No one really celebrates this up here in Canada, sounds like a fun time. I would love to have another St. Paddy’s/NYE etc celebration!

  • Christina says:

    It’s funny, I’ve always celebrated Cinco de Mayo! It’s really fun – everyone drinks Corona or Dos Equis and margaritas and tequila…when I was tending bar full time I used to get a lot of angry calls from my customers on May 6 =) Like it was my fault! I did a little research and apparently this is sort of a Mexico/US phenomenon as far as a “drinking night”. The night before American Thanksgiving is a big party night, too for whatever reason. Someday I’m going to write a book about all the shenanigans I’ve seen!

  • Tui Cameron says:

    I have a Mexican pal who had never heard of Cinco de Mayo as a holiday until he moved to the USA. He throws a great party for it now, though, and makes a mean margarita!

    Wish I were nearby, your article makes me wanna try out some fish tacos down your way.

    I look forward to reading that book of yours, btw! ;p

    ~Tui

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