First thing’s first: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day.
Though it’s a common misconception, perhaps due to the similarity of its namesake to the Fourth of July, the holiday actually celebrates a victory against the French army in 1862.
It’s more common to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in America than it is in Mexico. The country’s actual Independence Day is celebrated on September 16, but Cinco de Mayo has become an important part of Mexican-American culture.
While Mexican-inspired American food like Taco Bell or Qdoba might satisfy late-night cravings, at a time when many small, family-owned restaurants are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, making the extra effort to purchase from these spots can go a long way. And on a holiday designed to celebrate Mexican heritage, purchasing from a Mexican-owned restaurant is important, too.
Now that that’s cleared up — let’s get into the celebration.
- Address: 4242 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit
- Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday
While this Mexican restaurant will definitely be booked and busy for Cinco de Mayo, consider ordering a carryout of tamales, enchiladas, tacos, burritos and more. This southwest Detroit staple also offers seafood.
Chapala Mexican Restaurant
- Address: 211 N. Main St., Ann Arbor
- Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday
This Mexican restaurant features a tiki bar and elaborate, themed drinks — there’s even an option to drink out of a real pineapple. Try the flautas or carnitas. Dine-in or carry-out is available on Cinco de Mayo.
- Address: 693 S. Maple Road, Ann Arbor and 7065 Dexter Ann Arbor Road, Dexter
- Hours: Vary by location
Try the daily special from this spot, where you can get a combination of two tacos or tamales served with rice, your choice of beans and soft drink. This taco spot also offers barbacoa and campechana tacos, which you can’t find at every taqueria. There are also large family taco and tamale meals for carryout.
- Address: 7400 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
- Hours: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday
This popular spot has a wide variety of soups, including menudo and birria, and large dinner platters. Try one of their margarita creations like the Margarita el Nacimiento, with tequila, fresh lime juice, agave syrup and grenadine. There’s a kid-friendly menu, too.
- Address: 4614 2nd Ave. Detroit
- Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
This taco spot is nestled in the back of a small grocery. Stop by on Cinco de Mayo for an array of taco options, including vegetarian choices and be sure to pick up a horchata to round out your Cinco de Mayo feast. Orders can be called in ahead.
- Address: 40850 Van Dyke Ave. Sterling Heights
- Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
This restaurant boasts a full bar and specialty menu items including flautas, birria tacos and tamales.
- Address: 4300 W Vernor Hwy. Detroit
- Hours: 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
You don’t need to order ahead at this spot, but expect it to be very busy on Cinco de Mayo. Pick up sweet desserts, like churros and conchas, and a horchata to round out the celebration at this authentic Mexican bakery.
Detroit’s first Mexican restaurant has expanded to Utica, too. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with specialties like Calco Can-can and homemade desserts at this beloved restaurant.
- Address: 30257 John R. Road, Madison Heights
- Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
My Super Taco is more than just a restaurant — it’s a market, too. The shop sells imported Mexican food staples and specialties and serves up full-sized plates of authentic cuisine. Vegan options are available.
- Address: 7278 Dix St., Detroit
- Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed on Monday.
Try the “land and sea” plate or the chile relleno at this bustling spot. Cocktails are available to go for pickup and this restaurant is linked to both Doordash and Uber Eats for deliveries. No reservations are required for Cinco de Mayo.
- Address: 3182 Packard St., Ann Arbor
- Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday
You can build-your-own torta (a style of sandwich) at this eatery or try the pupusas meal (a Salvadorian-style tortilla). Dine in and carryout are available at this tucked away spot.
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