On Cinco de Mayo, it’s widely accepted to spend much of the day with tacos and margaritas in hand. And while Mexican food is a certified staple in California and the southwest, off-the-beaten path restaurants throughout the US deliver unforgettable takes on the spirited cuisine, from traditional to contemporary. Here, 10 spots to add to your bucket list.
¡Cinco de Mayo!
Mas Tacos Por Favor: This no-frills (and super affordable) mobile eatery serves up made-from-scratch tacos, chicken tortilla soup, tamales and more in East Nashville. Stroll up to the window for hyped favorites such as the avocado, pulled pork and tilapia tacos, complete with a Mexican coke or agua fresca. Pro tip: Lines are real, so prepare to wait.
New York City
El Toro Blanco: This festive yet refined approach to pan-Mexican cuisine emphasizes seasonal grilled items. The West Village casual-chic eatery offers a 10-seat tequila bar (with more than 100 labels), a guacamole bar with made-to-order creations and a vibrant dining room.
Leña Brava: This one-of-a-kind concept from celebrity chef Rick Bayless takes inspiration from the multi-cultural seaside elements of Baja California Norte and the region's celebration of live-fire cooking (yes, everything from the kitchen is prepared on an open hearth and wood-burning oven). Dishes range from Baja-inspired wood-fired seafood to a fresh raw bar. A vibrant bar menu offers mezcal and hard-to-find Mexican wines from the Guadalupe Valley.
Petty Cash Taqueria: A casual-cool spot in the heart of West Hollywood, Petty Cash interprets street food classics via local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. The menu's modern flair is unprecedented (guacamole with uni, cauliflower nachos and octopus tacos) and an equally lively drink list features craft cocktails, a range of eclectic Mexican spirits and a beer cellar. Also of note: hand-painted murals by local street artist RETNA.
Torchy's Tacos: Per the tagline, the food is "Damn Good." Originating in Austin, the cult-favorite taco joint has more than 30 locations across Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma (with more to come!) ranging from food trucks to casual dine-in restaurants. From their killer breakfast tacos to distinctive recipes for every appetite (fried avocado, smoked beef brisket, jalapeño sausage and blackened salmon are a few) to the taco of the month, this laid-back spot is not to be missed.
El Techo: Located on the roof atop sister restaurant Lolinda in the heart of San Fran's Mission District, this place is al fresco street food at its finest. Everything from quesadillas to grilled skewers and house-signature chicharrones are offered during dinner, late-night and weekend brunch. Pitchers of margaritas and Latin American beers flow alongside traditional cocktails like the La Paloma and the piña colada. Pro tip: Arrive early or prepare to wait for a spot outside as seats are unsurprisingly coveted.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana: Chef Jose Andres' swanky take on Mexico's rich regional diversity, Oyamel's colorful ambience is whimsical, lively and above all, Instagram-worthy. Small plates are the name of the game—ceviches and Yucatan-style pit-barbecued pork top the list. With an equally delectable brunch, late-night menu and weekday happy hour, the good times are always flowing at this Penn Quarter neighborhood gem.
Lone Star Taco Bar: For a cool-kid spot, this restaurant-bar originated as a collab between two guys from Texas and Southern California, influenced by taquerias and open-air markets in Austin, Dallas and Mazatlán. Come for handmade tortillas, house-smoked, pickled and fresh chiles and out-of-this-world grilled corn, stay for the countless tequila- and mescal-based cocktails. Also killer is the breakfast menu with huevos rancheros and to-die-for breakfast tacos.
Blanco Tacos + Tequila: Situated at the base of Tucson's Catalina Foothills, views are expansive with an indoor-outdoor dining experience. The menu takes a healthy approach to Mexican cuisine. Must-try dishes: award-winning barbecue pork tacos with sweet corn fresh tomato salsa and street-style carne asada tacos. Highly recommended: Dining al fresco at dusk to take in an incomparable Tucson sunset.
Zócalo: This locally owned Cal-Mex spot emphasizes simple, unaltered ingredients in dishes from fresh salads to chile rellenos. At the bar, expect more than 60 100% blue agave tequilas plus handcrafted cocktails like the Jalapeño Cooler, Maple Paloma and Mexican Mule. With a weekend brunch and late-night menu, this is a great hangout for friends, family and groups.