Cinco de Mayo (translated as “the fifth of May”) may simply conjure up the sweet tang of margaritas and the irresistible beat of salsa music for you, but it’s much more than that! Do you know the history of this fun holiday? Despite being outnumbered and underequipped, the Mexican Army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza triumphed over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Each year on Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “Fifth of May”), revelers raise margaritas and celebrate this underdog victory.
This year, you may chose to celebrate this joyous holiday at home with takeout or delivery, or reserve a spot at one of the following recently opened restaurants in Orange County.
1. SOL Mexican Cocina
On-the-water SOL Mexican Cocina brings sexy back to Baja-style Mexican food. Rather than serving up free chips and salsa, SOL Mexican Cocina guests are given whole tostada rounds with a unique bean and pine nut dipping sauce. Handmade cocktails are worth imbibing, like the cucumber jalapeño margarita or the ginger tangerine martini. Many come for the customizable and fresh guacamole, but those with sensitive palates may want to steer clear of the spicy jalapeños with their guac. Four kinds of “street” tacos — beef, pork, chicken and fish — are satisfying enough. Entrées such as the Kobe-style skirt steak with tomatillo and the barbacoa-style shortrib serviceably stretch the conventions of typical Mexican food.
2. Red O
Red O Newport Beach offers a classic taste of Mexico, as well as prime steak and seafood. The large venue’s intriguing, curiously Moorish décor is festooned with dark reds, deep woods and a wall of tequila
Begin your meal with the pork belly sopes or shrimp ceviche. Mains are highlighted by Colorado lamb chops served in mole negro sauce, slow-cooked carnitas pork complemented by a red chile sauce, and chile relleno stuffed with prawns and Maine lobster. Supporting sustainability Red O tries to present sustainable seafood, as recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. These dishes can be paired with a host of sides, most notably the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with cotija cheese. For a sweet finale, try the tres leches cake or the plantain cake with pepita-toffee crunch. Expect delicious drinks, elevated Mexican cuisine, stunning decor and impeccable service.
143 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA, 92660. Visit Website
If you’ve enjoyed experiencing Puesto in Irvine at either Los Olivos or Park Place, you’ll be excited to know that Puesto recently opened their third location in Huntington Beach. And if you haven’t been to Puesto yet, you’ll want to check out this new location. Paying homage to the traditional flavors of Mexico City, Puesto has an exciting array of artisanal maíz azul stone-ground tortillas tacos; margaritas, beers and specialty cocktails; and other Mexican dishes like enfrijoladas negras, esquite and ceviche. Sourcing its ingredients from in and around the state, Puesto has earned national acclaim for its Mexico City-style tacos made with non-GMO organic, maíz azul stone-ground tortillas, crispy melted cheese and scratch salsas. Favorites include the Maine Lobster, Baja Fish, Carnitas and Chicken Al Pastor tacos. Puesto is the perfect spot to celebrate Cinco De Mayo 2021
8577 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618 | 7821 Edinger Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA, 992647 | 3311 Michelson Drive, Irvine, CA, 92617 Visit Website
4. Playa Mesa
With some of the best margaritas in Orange County, it’s no wonder Playa Mesa is at the top of our list for Cinco de Mayo hotspots. This Costa Mesa establishment does just about everything right—from the premium selection of Milagro Tequilas right down to the handmade tortillas. To celebrate the holiday treat yourself to a La Pasión Del Patron (Patron Silver, passion fruit, coconut water, pineapple, apricot and lime), a mango michelada (mango Hefeweizen, house-made michelada mix, lime, fresh mango, chamoy and Tajin rim) or their Insta-famous spicy cucumber margarita (fresh cucumber juice, lime, cilantro and house spicy bitters).
428 E 17th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 Visit Website
5. Coyote Grill
Gather your crew and head to Coyote Grill in beautiful Laguna Beach. Go big with a pitcher of the Coyote Margarita and order a few appetizers to share! Coyote Grill has long been a popular destination for Laguna Beach residents looking to grab a cocktail as well as some solace from the bustle of the city’s downtown scene. The marks of Baja California can be found throughout the cozy space, from the building’s bright pastel color scheme to the chill vibe filling its outdoor patio overlooking the water. Expected dishes — burritos and enchiladas — are augmented with signature items, think massive calamari tacos and the satisfying tequila-infused borracho chicken. Round out a meal with a creative dessert, among them the banana chimichanga. The early morning surf crowd stops in after catching waves and indulges in traditional fare like chilaquiles and tougher-to-find items such as shredded beef machaca. Lunchtime brings a host of lighter offerings, including salads and American sandwiches.
6. Javiers Cantina
Experience the freshness of authentic Mexican cuisine in the perfect atmosphere for this holiday. Soak up the spectacular views of the Pacific ocean as you sip on Margaritas while the sun sets. Order the Callitos Mazatlan to get the fiesta started. This dish is made with fresh, pan seared, wild scallops that are topped with a creamy chipotle sauce, and served with rice, beans and avocado. And since this is a party, enjoy with a pitcher of Javier’s Margarita, made with a blend of Patron Reposado Tequila, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec and sweet & sour.
7832 Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92657 | 536 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618 | Visit Website
Let this holiday be a special occasion as you dine with ocean views on their outdoor patio at Las Brisas. Laguna Beach institution with a good menu of Mexican-inspired contemporary seafood fare and an unbeatably scenic seaside setting. Start dinner with white shrimp and crab ceviche or tuna poke with avocado, mango, almonds and cilantro. You’ll find taco options and land-based entrées like grilled lamb chops, but your best bets are the fresh seafood dishes. Try the seared sea scallops, served with cauliflower purée, tomatillo, green olives and a sparkling wine beurre blanc. Some pass up the restaurant interior altogether for the relaxing outdoor patio, which presents margaritas and lighter fare like skillet nachos and chicken tinga tacos. Drinks are strong and made with freshly squeezed juices and premium liquors.
361 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 Visit Website
Orange County has some great restaurants and whether you are discovering new restaurants or revisiting old eats we want to hear about it. Do you have any gems tucked away in Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa? Share your favorite eats with us and hey lets go eat there together!