Five Places to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the 818

Cinco de Mayo is recognized as a regional holiday in Mexico—and known around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Interesting fact: It is often confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is on September 16. […]

Cinco de Mayo is recognized as a regional holiday in Mexico—and known around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Interesting fact: It is often confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is on September 16.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, celebrate at these Mexican eateries in the 818, some with festivities and special dishes starting early this weekend.

Maine lobster enchiladas

CASA VEGA

The scoop: A San Fernando Valley classic since 1958, Casa Vega is a family owned and operated restaurant known for its margaritas, dim lighting (celebrities huddled in a corner is not an unusual sight here) and lively atmosphere. On Cinco de Mayo, there will be an on-site photo booth all day for extra fun.

Special dishes: Enjoy an appetizer, such as the Supreme Vega Combo with black beans, beef and chicken taquitos and flour quesadillas; Maine lobster enchiladas; crab and shrimp enchiladas with Monterey jack cheese, salsa verde, guacamole and sour cream; pollo en mole (half-chicken simmered in red mole sauce). The Papa’s Grande Sundae for dessert is a must for family-style sharing—five scoops of vanilla ice cream, churros, salted caramel sauce and whipped cream served tableside on a dessert cart. Vegan and vegetarian options for many dishes are also available.

Drinks: Secret recipe Mexican coffee, as well as the many flavored margaritas.

13301 Ventura Blvd. (between Fulton and Nagle Avenue), Sherman Oaks, 818-788-4868

Enchilada de pollo con mole

LA FOGATA

The scoop: This 37-year-old restaurant on Van Nuys Boulevard will be even more festively decorated than usual starting May 2, with employees dressed in traditional Mexican garb.

Special dishes: Sopes de tinga (marinated chicken or beef) topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream; enchiladas de pollo con mole (two topped with mole sauce and cheese). Both dishes are served with rice and beans ($8.50). Also popular are the carne asada burrito and the enchilada and taco combo.

Drinks: All beers are $2.50, plus margaritas, of course.

La Fogata Restaurant, 5142 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-986-2870

Street Tacos: Mini-corn tortilla carnitas tacos

LA VENTURA

The scoop: Owner/chef Jeffrey Saad, a well-known TV personality (Cooking Channel’s United Tastes of America, Iron Chef and Food Network Star, among others) runs this five-month-old Studio City modern Mexican restaurant with his wife, Nadia. To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, there will be a live, six-piece mariachi band playing on Saturday, May 3 and on Cinco de Mayo from 7 to 9 p.m.

Special dishes: Along with the band, the regular menu will be supplemented by two specials on May 3 and 5: Gringo platter: two hard-shell tacos with Mexican spiced ground pork, shredded lettuce, cheese and pico de gallo along with two spicy hatch chile corn tortilla cheese enchiladas, served with rice and drunken bacon beans; Street tacos: a platter of five mini-corn tortilla carnitas tacos with finely chopped white onion, cilantro and morita-tomatillo salsa.

Drinks: Unique margaritas (house-spiced habanero or basil, blackberry, mint) and cocktails (Mexican tonic with gin, tonic, rosemary and jalepeno), as well as a full selection of Mexican beers.

La Ventura, 11929 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-358-3423

Five types of tacos

LOTERIA GRILL

The scoop: Owner/chef Jimmy Shaw (whose mole was touted on the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate) will highlight Loteria’s five top margaritas, five favorite Mexican beers and five puebla tacos, including a new taco flavor in his Cinco+Cinco+Cinco menu. 

Special dishes: Choose from five varieties of tacos: mole poblano, papa con rajas, tinga de pollo, pollo en pipian rojo and a new taco, chile de nogada, which includes chile poblano with a plantain and cheese filling, creamy walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds. 

Drinks: Special bar drinks are margaritas (Margarita Clasica, Jalapeno, Sandia (watermelon), Ginger and Caddy original) and beer (Pacifico, Corona, Victoria, Negra Modelo and Modelo Especial).

Loteria Grill, 2050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-508-5300

Tableside guacamole 

SOL Y LUNA

The scoop: Located on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, Sol y Luna feels like an eatery you might stumble upon in Mexico, albeit amped up in the kitsch department—think Mexican statues, artwork and twinkle lights. On Saturday, May 3, from 5 to 7 p.m., Cazadores Tequila will be handing out free promo goods. On Cinco de Mayo, mariachis will stroll from 4 to 7 p.m. 

Special dishes: There’s no special menu, but the tableside guacamole made fresh in front of you is a must. Other popular dishes include: molcajete (strips of steak, grilled shrimp, chicken, cactus leaf and panela cheese), sopa de albondigas, ceviche and plato de chili Colorado.

Drinks: Hand-blended margaritas. Enough said.

Sol y Luna, 19601 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, 818-343-8488

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