There has been a lot to celebrate lately over at Southwest Airlines! With this week’s acquisition of AirTran, which created “One LUV” between the two airlines and which will expand service to Mexico and many other new destinations, we at Dish Trip have even more of a reason to party on May 5! In this post, our Dish Trip writer Melissa Shertz takes us to some of the best spots in the country to fill up on fiesta foods and celebrate Cinco de Mayo! And, just cause I know you’ll need it, check out this handy Mexican Food Glossary to help navigate your way through any menu!
As a product of an Irish mother and a Mexican father, I was brought up on good food and have a penchant for celebrations of all kinds. St. Patty’s Day, of course, is an old favorite, but as soon as spring is in the air, there’s nothing I look forward to more than Cinco de Mayo. In our house, that always meant a constant supply of homemade pico de gallo in the fridge and tortilla chips in a bowl on the counter, not to mention the main event of the meal, enchiladas, and my dad’s signature saffron-infused paella.
Needless to say, some might call me an expert at finding the best Mexican fare to properly celebrate the 5th of May—no matter where I might be. From dives to five-star restaurants, margaritas to ‘Mexi-tinis,‘ the U.S. is by no means lacking in authentic Mexican cuisine. So, in honor of the 5th, here’s a quick review of five fabulous Southwest travel destinations to indulge your appetite.
We’ll start our tour in “the Golden State,” where taco trucks patrol most major cities and authentic Mexican restaurants can be found on the main streets of most towns.
For a delicious meal-on-the-go, I recommend the highly touted Tamales Mi Lupitas, located in Oakland, which serves some of the tastiest Mexican delicacies such as pork tamales and pupusas—corn tortillas filled with your choice of queso, black beans, and chicharron.
If you are in the mood for a more upscale restaurant experience, try Manhattan Beach’s Mucho Ultima Mexicana, which serves up a great menu of modern Mexican fare (Filet Mignon Tacos or Chipotle Glazed Salmon, anyone?) and offers a weekly happy hour special including $6.00 appetizers, mojitos, and, of course, margaritas.
We asked our Dish Trip fans what they thought about Californian Mexican food, and Emily Bell told us, “San Diego is probably the best for fish tacos and great burritos throughout Cali.” Andrea Taylor Broughton agreed that “Southern CA has the best Mexican food. We have some good restaurants up here in Humboldt, but nothing beats San Diego!” So, there you have it. If you have the opportunity to visit, California is undoubtedly rich in choices, regardless of your budget.
Next, we travel to Texas, the home of “Tex-Mex” cuisine. For an authentic Tex-Mex experience, travel to Fonda San Miguel in Austin (below), which was founded in 1975 and was one of the first U.S. restaurants to exclusively serve authentic Mexican cuisine. Here, ensconced in a classically intimate atmosphere, complete with an atrium and private garden, you will be wowed by the restaurant’s extensive menu. But, make sure you save room for dessert! Many of our readers suggest the Flan de Almendra and Tres Leches cake. Another plus? They offer a great Sunday brunch.
If you find yourself in San Antonio, stop by a Dish follower favorite, Taco Cabana. Although it presents like any other fast food Mexican “dine and dash” to the naked eye, Amy Young Lannen describes the food as “hot and fresh” and singles out the breakfast burrito as her meal of choice.
Another Dish Trip fan, Chad Crowhurst, recommends flying into Houston and then driving about 40 miles south to Galveston to pay a visit to one of his favorite Mexican places, Tortuga Mexican Kitchen. With two locations (one also in Baytown, TX), the Mexican food at Tortuga has more of a Yucatan flare. He digs their seafood enchiladas and beef/chicken fajitas and says, “if you go, make sure you try one of their signature drinks, the Pacific Punch (it's a 60-oz. monster of a drink made for two). If you're coming for Cinco de Mayo, this place will probably be packed!”
For all you frequent Florida travelers, Miami is the spot for Mexican food! When visiting my sister, I always make sure to stop by Mr. Taco Mexican Food, located along the ever-popular Collins Avenue. Do not be fooled by the name. I was reluctant at first when recommended by a local, but after one dinner there I was hooked. This casual dining spot features prompt and friendly service and the best guacamole I’ve ever had, and that’s coming from a true Mexican food connoisseur. On my third trip there I tried the beef tongue special, served with a side of fried rice and beans, and I was pleasantly surprised—both by my bravery and the taste! The meat was tender and flavored to perfection—the perfect plate for a late night snack.
To avoid the hustle and bustle of downtown Miami, find your way to Mi Rinconcito Mexicano, another casual and affordable restaurant located on 8th Street in the Havana District. Try the flautas or the lamb tacos, and I promise you will not be disappointed.
With nearly 24,000 active restaurants in New York City, there is no shortage of Mexican spots to choose from, ranging from casual to fine dining and, yes, more of those fabulous taco trucks. Among these numerous street vendors, the majority of the locals are loyal to Calexico, located in downtown SoHo, open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to accommodate the bustling lunch crowd. This convenient spot won second place in the 2010 “Vendy Awards,” which recognizes the best food trucks in New York City.
If you are interested in a sit-down meal and willing to make a trip over to Brooklyn, I strongly encourage you to visit La Superior in Williamsburg. With a menu full of classic Latin specialties—gorditas, sopas, tostadas, frijoles, enchiladas—you really can’t go wrong. And the best thing? They’re open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, so you can satisfy your craving any time of day.
Last but certainly not least, I’ve gotta talk about PA! If you’re looking for some “haute” Mexican flavors try Xochitl, where traditional Mexican fare is served with a modern twist. Try Executive Chef Lucio Palazzo’s fresh guacamole, antojitos, ceviches, and platos fuertes, and sip your way through hand-squeezed margaritas and specialty cocktails (the extensive tequila list features over 70 bottles).
Everyone in Philly knows Iron Chef José Garces, and his third restaurant, Distrito (above), features his fun updates on Mexican classics like tacos with truffled potatoes and queso fundito with duck. Plus, in this restaurant’s fun atmosphere, complete with colorful Mexican wrestler masks, a car parked in the window, and pink lighting, any meal becomes quite the experience.
Of course, I am partial to Chester County, where our Dish team is from, and we have a listing of all things Cinco on West Chester Dish for those looking for something authentic outside of the city to celebrate on the 5th. But we can’t forget about our friends at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Macaroni Company who recommend “Cantina in Lawrenceville, Mad Mex in Shadyside, or Vera Cruz in Oakland.”
Of course, you could always have the real deal in Mexico now that Southwest has service there. No matter where you choose to celebrate, the Dish Trip team wishes you happy eating!
As always, follow us on Twitter @dishtrip or friend us on Facebook for more dining details in a city near you. Let us know where YOU love to enjoy your favorite Mexican food and how you plan on celebrating Cinco de Mayo! Thanks for reading—we’ll see you on the next Dish Trip!