Get in the Cinco de Mayo spirit with the city’s choicest Mexican fare this month
It’s that time of year again when everyone’s favorite Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, makes May a month- long reason to indulge in South-of-the-border food and drink. Here’s where to go for an excellent dinner, tequila flight tastings, or a margarita-fueled night out.
For Tacos & Tapas
The word “authentic” is often used liberally in the realm of describing ethnic food, but chef-owner Richard Sandoval’s food at Maya is the real deal—forward-thinking dishes made with Mexican ingredients and history that have earned him a reputation as being at the forefront of the Modern Mexican food movement. The best way to sample his array of gorgeous creations is at bottomless brunch on weekends, which for $45 a head gets a whole table unlimited small plates and cocktails for two hours. Do days start any fresher than with ceviche and a blueberry-pomegranate mimosa?
But if it’s more authentic street food you’re after, head to La Esquina down in SoHo. There’s a subterranean restaurant for more refined fare, but we suggest grabbing some of the best fish tacos and roasted corn in town from the walk-up tacqueria counter and sitting outside to people-watch one of the most fashionable intersections in the city.
For Tequila Tastings
Contrary to popular opinion, the best way to consume tequila on its own is not through aggressive shot-taking. Like fine wines and whiskeys, quality tequilas boast a range of nuanced flavors, and a couple of upmarket watering holes are determined to show people this through tequila flights. The sister establishment of Maya is Biblioteca— another Sandoval creation dedicated to tequila with more than 400 bottles of agave spirits. The tasting flight menu is organized like a social studies textbook: four tequilas to compare the tastes of different regions, three tequilas from a trio of famous family distilleries, four tequilas to show how barrel wood affects the flavor.
And if Biblioteca is where one goes to learn, Mayahuel is where one goes to play. The drinking den is one of the sexiest joints in the East Village, with a doorman who requires a reservation if you don’t have a name to drop and two- stories of intimate tables where flattering red lights see everyone looking their best. Have your server explain the eight different flight combinations on the Flights to Mexico portion of the menu; they’re from some of the nest distilleries you’ve never heard of.
FOR MUCHAS MARGARITAS
The city may flush with chalkboard signs proclaiming margarita happy hours year- round, but not all margaritas are created equal, and this holiday demands the best. In Hell’s Kitchen, Arriba Arriba pours some of the top classic margs in the city— nothing fancy (like the red-walled space itself), but blended or on the rocks in a myriad of tropical fruit flavors and sizes that range up to the 27-ounce “La Mama” for those preparing to party. Get some plates of nachos or guacamole-topped quesadillas on the table, and it’s a recipe for a great night.
For funkier vibes, head down to the West Village, where Horchata sets a quirky mood as a brick-walled den with strings of lights hanging from the ceiling and bottles stacked on a puzzle of rectangular wood shelves. Horchata serves ve versions of its namesake drink—including one with espresso for a pick-me-up—but a fashionable young crowd flocks here for its strong margaritas and shareable contemporary cuisine. A trio of different guacamoles made to order and small plates like flautas and Mexican-style shrimp cocktail give a solid base for multiple rounds of show-stealing jalapeno cucumber or g margaritas.