12 great Mexican restaurants for Cinco de Mayo food in the Los Angeles area
What St. Paddy’s is to New York, Cinco de Mayo is to Los Angeles, a day when everybody, no matter what their ethnic persuasion, comes out to celebrate. And instead of sucking down green beer, green Irish coffee and green bagels, we keep it down to earth in L.A.
It’s a day for the earthy flavor of tequila and mezcal, the gooeyness of mountains of nachos, the rustic satisfaction of mole. Not that we avoid green. There are green corn tamales to be found, which are very good indeed.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo — the 5th of May — is not Mexican Independence Day; that’s celebrated on Sept. 16. Instead, Cinco is the day to remember the Battle of Puebla in 1862, when the Mexican army demonstrated that it could beat the French.
But more than that, Cinco de Mayo is a time when Los Angeles celebrates its Hispanic heritage with lots to eat and lots to drink, activities that can be carried on with ease at any of our many old-school Mexican restaurants. But for something different — Cinco de Mayo Out of the Box — there are plenty of newschool places as well, serving modern Mexican cooking that pushes the edge, and makes for a nouvelle take on an ancient day. Places found all over town, such as:
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY
XOC TEQUILA GRILL
The Village at Westfield Topanga, 6316 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-9927930; www.xoctequilagrill.com
XOC sits in the heart of the restaurant-rich Village at Westfield Topanga, a lively destination for a margie or three, while safely ensconced in the busy suburban mall.
There are about 50 tequilas on the list, with the selection broken into blanco, reposado, anejo and reservas; if you’re living large, there’s a shot of Patron Grand Burdeos for $75. The tequila flights are an admirable bargain, a trio going for $19, along with a shot of housemade sangrita and a plate of lime wedges. Myself, I go for the micheladas — flavored beer drinks, with your choice of brew (mostly Mexican) mixed with lime juice, with Worcestershire and Tabasco, or with sangrita and lime. It’s refreshing, it goes down easy, and it’s a deal. Oh, and for those in need of something mixed, there’s a wide variety of margaritas, and other tequila drinks, including both an Old Fashioned made with mezcal, and a Moscow Mule made with tequila. The place is true to its name.