Where to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Chicago’s North Shore
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, but actually a celebration in honor of Mexico's victory in the Battle of Puebla against France in 1862. This year, Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday, making it the perfect way to end your weekend and celebrate Mexican culture by gathering with good friends over delicious food and drinks. Fortunately for us, Chicago's North Shore is home to a variety of restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine in cool locales. Start planning your May 5 celebration at one of these restaurants.
Mesa Urbana 3566 Milwaukee Ave., Northbrook The food here is Mexican with a hint of French, Mediterranean, and Asian, and the vibe is chic and cozy (complete with beautiful murals and artwork throughout the restaurant). Start your evening with the Ceviche Trio (octopus, shrimp, and Hawaiian ahi tuna) or Empanada with roasted butternut squash, shallots, spinach, and romanesco spread. For your entree, consider the Pescado Taco (mahi-mahi, cabbage, mango relish, avocado, caper aioli, and beans), Callos De Hacha (scallops, acorn squash, spinach, tomato, onion, and guajillo brown butter), or Pechuga de Pollo (farm raised chicken, cipollini onions, orange couscous, peas, and asparagus). And don't leave without ordering a Lava Cake with mixed berry coulis and ice cream or Fudge Cocoa Brownies with vanilla ice cream. You'll also find an extensive drink menu with margaritas, mojitos, sangrias, wine, and beer.
Mesa Urbana, Northbrook
La Principal 700 Main St., Evanston Whether you dine in or celebrate at home, La Principal is a great option for Cinco de Mayo. Start with Chips and Salsa or Guacamole, Queso Fundido, or Elotes before moving on to tacos like Carnitas (braised pork, corn, poblano, and pineapple relish), Red Mole Sweet Potato (sweet potatoes, red mole, pickled red cabbage, pepitas, and cotija), and Chicken Tinga (chipotle braised chicken, baby arugula, cotija cheese, chipotle creme, and avocado). And don't forget a churro! Plus, stop by any day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch to get any two tacos with rice and beans for $10 (dine-in only).
El Fuego Restaurante and Tequila Bar 8018 Lincoln Ave., Skokie
Kick off your Cinco de Mayo celebration at El Fuego with some delicious appetizers at to share like the Super Nachos (layered with melted cheese, beans, tomoatoes, guac and sour cream, add steak, chicken, chorizo or ground beef) and the El Fuego Wings (choice of BBQ, Buffalo or Mango Habenero). Or jump right into a plate of tacos, burritos or other Mexican classics such as tostadas, tortas and sopes.
Cafe El Tapatio 9707 N. Milwaukee Ave., Glenview You'll find authentic Mexican food and city-like vibes at this Glenview restaurant. Both the Guacamole and Elotes de la Calle are a must, as are the Carne Asada Tacos with pickled red onion and cilantro; the Fajita Burrito with your choice of meat, sautéed red and green peppers, onions, tomato, ancho Chile sauce, crema, queso chihuahua, and beans; and the Oaxaquenas Enchiladas filled with fried plantains with mole poblano, queso añejo, and crema. Pair it all with Horchata, Limonada, or a Jumbo Margarita.
Cafe El Tapatio, Glenview
Guanajuato 73 Green Bay Road, Glenoe Celebrate in Glencoe at this restaurant that combines “traditional Mexican food with contemporary preparation and the highest quality ingredients.” If the weather is nice (fingers crossed!), sit out on the patio as you enjoy Nachos a la Mexicana (tortilla chips topped with black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese); Carne Asada paired with rice, beans, and fried onions; Chipotle Shrimp with Mexican rice and arugula; or Enchiladas Margarita (your choice of chicken, ground beef, or cheese enchiladas topped with salsa verde, sour cream, and Cotija cheese paired with sautéed spinach and black beans). End the evening with Churros or Coconut or Vanilla Flan.
Taco Diablo 1029 Davis St., Evanston This cool cantina and taqueria believes that "all you need in life is love and tacos — maybe a little tequila," which is a mantra we can definitely get behind. Grab your closest friends and share Taqueria Guacamole, Queso Fundido, or Elote Esquite to start, and tacos like Lamb Barbacoa, Crispy Chicken, Duck & Pork Chorizo, Spicy Shrimp, and Potato are served family style with red rice and frijoles negra or bacon and pinto beans. As for drinks, must-try margaritas include Hot Joy (Reposado Tequila and Ancho Reyes with spicy chili shrub and habanero bitters) and The OG — Diablos Margarita (Olmeca Altos Reposado, Combier, agave, and fresh lime).