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Cinco For Cinco

Celebrate at these Mexican eateries


The date 05/05/05 comes around only once every 1,000 years, right? That in itself is something to celebrate. Officially, Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican holiday to commemorate the 1862 victory by Mexico over the French. As Americans, we love the concept of celebrating freedom and the vivid celebratory atmosphere that comes with it - in this case, margaritas, beer and shots of tequila. Charlotte has a range of Mexican eateries, from upscale to hole in the wall. Some restaurateurs have acquiesced to American stereotypical Tex-Mex expectations, but many others offer some dishes from both sides of the plate.

For tequila, Señor Tequila Cantina Grill is the place. If you want to "bite into the earth," as the Mexicans say of tequila, here you can choose from Jose Cuevo to Sauza Commemorativo and Cabo Wabo. Also on the drink list are margaritas, beer and Latino wines. To complement these celebratory drinks, try the sopa de frijoles negros (black bean soup) with cotija (queso anejado) cheese or the pollo con mole, a smoky, very luxurious poblano sauce with a touch of dark chocolate.

Señor Tequila Cantina Grill, 6414 Rea Road in the Shops at Piper Glen, 704-543-0706.

Salsa's Mexican Restaurant is most solicitous of families who want to celebrate five on five. Salsa's menu is a mix of the owners' family's recipes and Tex-Mex cuisine including chimichangas, enchiladas, burritos and fajitas. On May 5, which is also their third anniversary at the Galleria and fifth for their Carmel store, Salsa's will celebrate outside with live music and giveaways.

Salsa's Mexican Restaurant, Galleria Village Shopping Center, 1640 Sardis Road North, 704-846-3374; Carmel Commons Shopping Center, 6676 Carmel Road, 704-759-9886.

For those who just returned from the beaches of the Yucatan, you can continue the culinary adventure at Cantina 1511. Their Pollo alla Parrilla is a spin of a Yucatan favorite, offering black beans and white rice, dotted with red onion and topped with an achiote-citrus marinated grilled chicken breast. But nothing beats a cold beer with their tableside guacamole.

Cantina 1511, 1511 East Boulevard, 704-331-9222.

The Prickly Pear offers a fine salute to Mexican modern cuisine. The menu, which changes periodically, is filled with stylish foods. Then there are the margaritas: Prickly Pear with a crimson prickly pear fruit; Blue Agave; the hand shaken Desert Mirage; Mango Madness; and more. Whew. You can devour an entire bowl of tri-colored chips while reading through this litany.

Prickly Pear, 761 N Main St, Mooresville, 704-799-0875.

If you aren't interested in upscale, nor hole in the wall authentic, a happy medium is Linares Mexican Restaurant, a small eatery on Central Avenue which caters to families. Language is not an issue with the servers if you stick to food items. Munch on complimentary crispy made-in-house corn tortillas presented with two sauces, one spicy and the other spicier. Also available is the salsa bar with salsas from across Mexico. Try the Quesadillas, either wheat flour or corn, or the Parrillada Linares. Linares does not offer border food. Their kitchen adds a soulful touch to northern Mexican cuisine.

Linares Mexican Restaurant, 4918 Central Avenue, 704-535-6716.

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