Where to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

By Fritz Hahn
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 3, 2005; 5:28 PM

U Street's newest Mexican joint offers live Latin music from 6 to 11, followed by a DJ spinning Latin pop. Food and drink specials include $3 house margaritas and Mexican beers.

Andale has one of the best tequila selections in Washington, so it's no surprise that the Penn Quarter restaurant has developed three special drinks for Cinco de Mayo, in addition to the restaurant's usual happy hour with half-priced margaritas, wine and draft beer. Diners also get a special menu for the evening. Entertainment comes from a mariachi band.

Chief Ike's Mambo Room
Fresh off another stellar performance at the Black Cat, bloggers-cum-DJs Bluestate provides the indie-rock and '80s love at DCist's Cinco de Mayo party. Doors open at 7, and the all-night drink specials include $3 bottles of Corona, Pacifico and domestic (American) beers; $4 rail drinks; and $5 margaritas and Jose Cuervo and Sauza tequila drinks.

On the Georgetown waterfront, relative newcomer Cabanas throws the largest outdoor party with mariachis, a flamenco guitarist and so-so drink specials that include $4 Corona Lights and $5 margaritas.

Caribbean Breeze
Possibly the only Cinco de Mayo party with a live reggae band, the Ballston restaurant skips Red Stripe specials for discounted Mexican beers ($2.95 Corona and Dos Equis) and margaritas; pay $4.95 for a basic drink or step up to the top shelf for $5.95. The music begins at 6.

Don Pablo's
What comes to mind when you think of Cinco de Mayo? How about an '80s cover band playing at a Mexican chain restaurant in a large suburban shopping center? Party DC's Cinco de Mayo Fest brings the Legwarmers -- the area's best '80s tribute act -- to the parking lot of the Fair Lakes branch of Don Pablo's, along with Jackie Gino and 8 Track Jones. The indoor-outdoor event features music outdoors from 5 to 10, followed by dancing to a DJ inside the restaurant until 2 a.m. Early admission is $5, rising as the night goes on.

DC101 is sponsoring an 18-and-over party at the upscale Northeast nightclub. You can try to win free admission from the radio station, or you can go to www.dcdream.com and click on "Free Pass." You can print out a coupon good for free admission before 11 and an open bar from 9 to 10. Those under 21 can use the pass for $5 admission.

The list of groups sponsoring the Cinco de Mayo party at Five is longer than the list of drink specials and ranges from the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia to Euronet (a group for European professionals). Expect all three levels of the club -- including the tropical-theme rooftop -- to be crowded with folks sipping $2 Coronas or munching on a free Mexican buffet. Music comes from a roving mariachi band and DJs spinning salsa and other dance music. Admission is $15, or $10 if you RSVP to one of the myriad organizations throwing the party, including latinvip.com, euronetinternational.com and y3h.org. Doors open at 5:30.

Activities at Lulu's on Cinco de Mayo range from a tequila-drinking contest to salsa lessons to whacking piñatas full of cash. There are cultural performances, too, including mariachis, live music by Orquesta Latin Soul and five groups demonstrating various folk and salsa dances. Doors open at 5 for a free Mexican buffet, and dance lessons begin at 6:30. A $10 cover is in effect all night, and El Zol (99.1 FM) provides the music.

Live Mexcian music and folk dancing are the highlights of Oyamel's party, although discounted tequila and Jose Andres' special avocado-based menu sound pretty good, too. Entertainment runs from 5:30 to 7:30; if the weather co-operates, the celebration moves outside to the restaurant's patio.

Rock Bottom Bethesda
To commemorate Cinco de Mayo, Rock Bottom brewer Geoffery Lively has made a limited batch of Jalepeno beer. It sounds unpalatable, but a manager assured us that free samples will be available, because "this beer is so unique" that patrons should try before they buy. (If you like your lagers spicy, pints are $2 all day.) For those who aren't so brave, there are still a number of specials. All house beers are $1 from 5:30 to 7; at 7, Lively unveils his latest seasonal offering, an unfiltered Belgian-style Wit Beer, and everyone in the bar gets a free pint to taste.

Tequila Grill
The International Club of DC and the Things to Do DC group are joining forces for a party that features DJs spinning merengue and salsa, free food (taquitos and nachos) and discounted tequila drinks. Tickets are $15 from either internationalclubdc.com or thingstododc.com.

If you're going out with a large group of friends on Thursday, you should consider Vida. Bring a group of 10 to the Lindy Promotions party and you'll save a buck per person on admission ($40 vs. $5 individually), plus get two buckets of beer and reserved seats on the patio. Call 301-652-7712 before 1 on Thursday to make reservations. Don't worry if you're in a smaller group -- you can still take advantage of specials like $2 Bud and Bud Light bottles and $5 16-ounce margaritas (frozen or regular).

Salsa is the focus of Professionals in the City's party at the Cuban restaurant Yuca, with hour-long lessons beginning at 7 (for beginners) and 8 (intermediate dancers), followed by DJs spinning Latin music. Specials include discounted mojitos, wine and domestic beer. Tickets are $12 from prosinthecity.com.

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