Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexico’s win at the battle of Puebla against the French Empire in 1862, typically is celebrated in the United States with Mexican beers, Margaritas, tacos, and guacamole. Several South Bronx eateries are gearing up for the celebrations.
Ironically, some foreign-born Mexicans living in New York do not celebrate the holiday and find the widespread interest by Americans somewhat of a phenomenon.
That doesn’t stop the many Mexican-owned restaurants in the South Bronx from organizing festivities and menus around it. The reason, owners say, is very simply because people expect them to do so. And it’s a nice boost to the bottom line, particularly this year, when small businesses across the neighborhood are struggling to recover from pandemic losses.
Here’s what five of the best Mexican restaurants and bars in the South Bronx are planning.
Xime is a party for the eyes from the inside-out. The day-of-the-dead themed restaurant is filled with brightly colored booths, paper cutouts, pinatas, artisanal chairs and a plethora of skulls and skeletons. The turquoise and cotton-candy blue and pink palette with cartoonish murals make this a great family-friendly restaurant. They do not serve liquor, but they do sell beer. Order a michelada and smile at the pleasant surprise of Mexican candy and gummy worms that come swimming in your drink. Make sure to opt for the handmade tortillas when ordering your tacos. For the day, basic refreshments are free with your food order. Xime is located on E. 138th street between Willis Avenue and Brown Place.
Mexicocina Mezcaleria at 503 Jackson Ave. at the NW corner of Jackson Avenue and 147th Street, will serve on Thursday between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. If you’re looking for something to get the party started, stop in at this tiny joint that sits on the corner of 147th Street and Jackson Avenue. Don’t let the stuffed lobo in the window scare you away from the impressive selection of mezcals and tequilas. The intimate space is quaintly decorated with hand-crafted knick-knacks that truly replicate the feel of a cantina. They offer your regular fare of tacos, but also more authentic ones, like lengua and oreja. For their celebration, they are offering a new serrano chile Margarita and a Mexican boilermaker for $6.
El Porton, on Southern Boulevard between 149th Street and Avenue St. John, offers three different sizes of Margarita: 12oz, 16oz and a 27-ounce behemoth. In addition to your familiar add-ins like strawberry and mango syrup, they also offer uncommon ones, like tamarind and chamoy. Their cocktails pay close attention to presentation and a balance of flavors, so you’re sure to enjoy anything you order, and the food is just as comparable. Their ingredients are fresh, and their goat is the best in the South Bronx, perhaps the whole borough. You have to try it for yourself. It will be open Thursday between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Josefina Camargo was the matriarch of La Jefa when it was called Santa Clarita. When Camargo passed in 2021, her two sons, Omar and Corado, took over and renamed it in her honor. A large poster inside the restaurant features a contemplative photo of her, as if watching over the diners, perhaps a foreshadowing. It has an especially unique layout, sporting three different eateries and a pool table. There is the dining room itself, the to-go window with barstools, and a separate stand that sells inexpensive hand-held snacks, like tlacoyos and empanadas. They offer $20 buckets of six coronas every day, so you can celebrate even after Cinco de Mayo. La Jefa, at 237 Willis Ave., will be open between noon and 11 p.m.
Noches Mexicanas at 524 Brook Ave. between 148th & 149th Streets will be open between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Cinco de mayo. Once your bellies are full of tacos and liquid courage, go to Noches Mexicanas for a night of live music and dancing. The venue has a long bar and clears out their seating to allow patrons to scratch up the dance floor with Cumbia, Banda, and more. The stage will feature performers and the drinks are an added treat. Order a beautifully ombre Blue Hawaiian or a michelada, which they say will come fully loaded with hot sauce, tortillas and shrimp! You have to see it to believe it. There might even be some karaoke.