Will you be in Detroit for Cinco de Mayo this year? This is an exciting time in the city, where many of the exceptional Mexican restaurants and businesses hold events or special deals.
Southwest Detroit (maybe better known as Mexicantown) is a particularly vibrant area to celebrate the city’s Mexican culture and cuisine.
Of course, there will be some changes in 2021 as many large events are canceled, and some restaurants are not holding their traditional specials or opening hours due to the pandemic. Still, there are many ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Detroit this year – and you may even find that you can’t fit all these restaurants within 48 hours!
Cinco de Mayo in Detroit
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican celebration held every year on May 5th. The holiday originated as a celebration of the victory of the Mexican Army during the Battle of Puebla. It is a popular holiday in Puebla, Mexico, but other than that it is actually more celebrated within the United States than Mexico itself.
There are many other ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, such as being a patron at locally owned Mexican restaurants, shops, and boutiques, learning about Mexican heritage and culture, and more. (Of course, there is some great authentic tequila in Detroit, too, to make up a well-rounded celebration).
Detroit has a rich history of Mexican immigrants. 72% of the population in the southwest Detroit neighborhood, in particular, is Latinx. Many of these Detroiters immigrated from Mexico or can trace their family roots there, and have brought their culture to the city through restaurants and other family businesses. This is the ideal place in Detroit to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and will be the center of this 48 hour itinerary.
Where to Stay
While there are plenty of restaurants in southwest Detroit, there isn’t much accommodation in the neighborhood. If you are traveling into Detroit for Cinco de Mayo, choose one of these nearby hotels:
Southwest Detroit’s Virtual Cinco de Mayo: For the second year in a row, a virtual Cinco de Mayo celebration will be held on May 2 (4pm) and May 5 (6pm). This event is hosted by over 30 local nonprofits and will include presentations from Mexican folkloric dancers, Cinco de Mayo parades footage from previous years, and more. It will be viewable on the One Detroit Facebook page.
Tequila Education Class: Detroit Shipping Company is offering a tequila education class and tasting on May 5 from 6-8pm.
Cinco de Mayo in Detroit – Day 1
Whether day 1 of your itinerary is Cinco de Mayo itself, or you are having a belated celebration, you will want to start out your celebrations by heading to Southwest Detroit, also known as Mexicantown. There is much street parking available on the side streets off Vernor Highway.
Begin your Cinco de Mayo celebrations with an authentic Mexican breakfast. El Caporal Restaurante, located on Junction Avenue, is probably the best known Mexican restaurant in Detroit for its breakfast. El Caporal has been open since 2018, and is run by siblings Antonio and Araceli from Mexico City. Go simple with an omelette a la Mexicana, try something sweet like the pancakes with condensed milk, or go with a classic like huevos rancheros, huevo con chorizo, or chilaquiles.
Spend your afternoon exploring Mexicantown and the shopping scene here. Make sure to stop at Xochi’s Gift Shop, where you’ll find the widest selection of imported Mexican Folk Art in the city. Last year, Xochi’s started selling ‘Fiesta in a Box,’ when many businesses closed for Cinco de Mayo. The boxes are filled with everything you need to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, such as Mexican bingo, mini maracas, clay jaritos, flower crowns, fiesta beads, and more. Due to their popularity, these boxes will be sold in 2022 as well.
Have you worked up an appetite for lunch? Whether you’re hungry for a full meal, or just a couple tacos, there are many lunch options in Mexicantown.
Taqueria y Cenaduria Triángulo Dorado is a perfect option for your day 1 lunch. This restaurant is pretty unique compared to other Mexican restaurants in Detroit. It serves authentic northern Mexican cuisine, with dishes from the “golden triangle” of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua.
For a 2021 Cinco de Mayo special, they are offering two gorditas and an agua fresca for $6 – perfect for a light lunch. If you want something heartier, try the Sinaloan style sushi, which you won’t find anywhere else in Detroit.
If you still have energy in the evening, take a walk through Clark Park in the center of Mexicantown as you work up an appetite for dinner. Architectural lovers might want to visit the nearby Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit, or catch a view of the Ambassador Bridge.
For dinner, head to Detroit’s oldest Mexican restaurant: Mexican Village. Here, the specialty dishes include Caldo Can-cun (a spicy chicken and rice soup), burritos, and steaks.
Mexican Village is open until 10pm so it’s also a great place to order margaritas and stay late as you celebrate Cinco de Mayo. El Rancho Mexican Restaurant closes a little earlier, around 8 or 9 depending on the night, but is also known for its cocktails.
Mi Pueblo is another option for drinks, as they are offering bar drinks to go currently. You can also purchase one of their special Cinco de Mayo in Detroit t-shirts for $14.
Photos Courtesy of: Marvin Shaouni and Xochi’s Gift Shop
Cinco de Mayo in Detroit – Day 2
If you didn’t stop by for drinks last night, instead head to El Rancho Mexican Restaurant for breakfast on day 2. Open along Vernor Highway since 1983, this is another of Detroit’s classic Mexican restaurants. Try nopalitos (eggs scrambled with tender cactus), gorditas, or of course a traditional huevos rancheros.
For a lighter breakfast option (you’re probably stuffed from day 1), visit Mexicantown Bakery. Here you will find every Mexican pastry and baked good your heart could desire. Even if you don’t pick up breakfast here, be sure to stop in to pick up some pastries to go, and visit the Mexicantown gift shop.
In the afternoon, stretch your legs by exploring the incredible street art scene in Mexicantown. This area of Detroit is home to some of the city’s best murals. Many of the restaurants on this itinerary feature murals. Tamaleria Nuevo Leon in particular is home to an Elton Monroy Durán mural (and some amazing tamales). You’ll also want to check out the Hubert Massey mosaic and Vito Valdez murals located along Bagley Street.
If you’re not in the mood for tamales, then another great lunch choice is Armando’s Mexican Restaurant. This restaurant has been serving made-from-scratch Mexican food in Detroit since their opening in 1967, and has been run by the local Hernandez family since 1986. Armando’s opens at 2pm for dine-in, so this is a good option for a late lunch. Typically they are open Thursday-Sunday for dine-in, and daily for carry-out, but do plan to open for indoor dining on Wednesday May 5 for Cinco de Mayo.
Your final evening of Cinco de Mayo celebrations rolls around. This is a good time to pick up any authentic Mexican cooking staples you might want to bring home with you. Honey Bee Market on Bagley is a popular family-run store that sells many Central American ingredients ranging from fresh produce, meat, to shelved goods. They are particularly famous for their spicy Mexican chorizo, and fresh salsa and guacamole.
Maybe you’re too stuffed for your final dinner. If not, there are still plenty Mexican restaurants to choose from. Xochimilco Restaurantis a good option for those who love fajitas, and want to stay late for an extra margarita. And if you didn’t make it to Mi Pueblo for carry-out bar drinks last night, then do so tonight.
Photos Courtesy of: Mexicantown Bakery and Southwest Detroit Business Association
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