Tomorrow is “Cinco de Mayo,” a holiday in Mexico that commemorates Mexico’s victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Like our own Independence Day, which is marked by backyard cookouts, Cinco de Mayo has become a day for feasting and drinking. For New Yorkers, it means heading to one of the city’s nearly 1,000 Mexican restaurants or bars, many of which are offering special Cinco de Mayo menus.
At all three branches of Fonda, Cinco de Mayo promises to be a colorful event, made more colorful still by dishes such as the zarape de pato — a corn tortilla draped over a generous mound of moist braised duck, presented in a bright orange sauce distilled from roasted tomatoes, habaneros, and cream. The restaurant will be extending its Cinco celebration throughout the weekend with its “Ultimate Cinco Hangover Brunch” on Saturday and Sunday, which will feature a Breakfast Nacho special and a Bloody Maria cocktail. Fonda 139 Duane Street, 917-261-6950; 434 Seventh Avenue (bet 14th and 15th Sts), Brooklyn; 189 Ninth Avenue (at 21st St).
One custom that has sprung up in recent years in New York’s Mexican cantinas is the margarita tower, a glass vessel that rises several feet above the bar and dispenses 100 ounces of tequila-fueled goodness. Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina, which has two locations, offers the towers, which are intended to serve four or more, at a price of $120. Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina, 83 Pearl Street, 212-269-1177, and in Midtown at 5 East 38th Street, 646-998-5722.
If you prefer to dine al fresco, head over to Cantina Rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen, which has cultivated a reputation for its $80 “super taco” (formerly known as the “big ass taco”). Weighing in at 14 pounds, the dish will feed 6 to 8 hungry people. All portions run large, meaning you won’t leave hungry. Thirsty either if you opt for the De Nada Skull Margarita, priced at $35. Cantina Rooftop, 605 W. 48th Street (bet. Eleventh and Twelfth Aves.), 212-957-1700.
Haven Rooftop, in Midtown, will host a live mariachi band beginning at 7:30 as part of its Cinco celebration, which begins at 4 p.m. and runs “late.” Order up one of Haven’s colorful pluckable “margarita trees,” priced at $75, to share with your co-celebrants. Haven Rooftop, 132 W. 47th Street, 212-466-9000.
The Battle of Puebla was fought on dry land but you can celebrate the victory on the water by reserving space on La Barca Cantina, New York City’s first and only floating Mexican restaurant and bar. Featuring a large outdoor deck and three bars, guests will be plied with Mexican-inspired street food, cocktails, and Mexican spirits, all set against a backdrop of the city’s skyline. La Barca Cantina, Pier 81, West 41st Street (at 12th Ave).