By Jacqueline Runice

Although Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 (it’s not Mexico’s Independence Day), it has become a global celebration of the maravilloso Mexican food and culture. Say “Si” to a grande Cinco de Mayo party all around Chicago from a charity five-mile run ending in tamales and beer to a stand up comedy fiesta.

RAM Racing’s Cinco de Miller
Montrose Harbor
601 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60613

RAM Racing events appeal to the seasoned runner as well as the merely good intentioned and you’re in this one as long as you have at least a 15-minute mile pace. Cinco de Miller is Chicago’s  five-mile race that celebrates Mexico’s vibrant culture that steps off at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 6th, 2017 at Montrose Harbor. You’ll snag a fitted technical tee and bottle opener medal, plus muchos tamales, chips and salsa after you cross the finish line. The the beer garden on Solider Field’s South Lot offers a Cinco de Mayo fiesta and dance with live mariachi bands, mechanical bull and plenty of pinatas to plunder. You’re doing it for fun but also for Gilda’s Club, a charity serving all people impacted by cancer.  Sign up online.

Cinco de Mayo Comedy Fiesta
Joe’s Bar
940 West Weed St.
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 337-3486

Is the best part the $5 Margaritas, Modelos and Coronas or the stellar line-up of Latino performers like Alex Ortiz, Oscar Carvajal and Patti Vasquez? You may have seen Alex Ortiz on HBO and Showtime – he is considered a pioneer in Latino comedy in Chicago.  For diversity’s sake and even more nyuks, the Cinco de Mayo Comedy Fiesta also features Jeanie Doogan, Mickey Housely (credits include Zanies and NBC Stand Up) and music by Antenna, a local band influenced by their Mexican American culture and the Chicago rock scene. The two shows (7:30 and 10 p.m.) cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. It’s at Joe’s Bar, so expect plenty of elbow room and Joe’s menu of pizza, sandwiches, wings, salads and, of course, tacos, plus a full bar of drinks for purchase.

Cinco de Mayo Pinata Parties
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2056

Although the more astute kids might question why a Cinco de Mayo party takes place on May 6 and 7, nonetheless, here’s a chance for teachable moments in terms of history, culture and animal welfare and enrichment. Unlike most of the adults who are merely nursing hangers this weekend, kids and their caregivers create cool arty items that enrich the lives of zoo animals. Bring ninos of all ages to see the animals then fashion edible piñatas, willow balls, or other interesting and useful thingies for all kinds of animals across the zoo. There’s a charge of  $5 per person ($4 for Lincoln Park Zoo members) or an $18 Family Pack admits 4-6 people ($15 Family Pack for Lincoln Park Zoo members). Be sure to register for your place on either day.

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Mole de Mayo
18th St. at Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 733-2287

At press time, the city of Chicago still hadn’t nailed down a date and time for an official Cinco parade (it’s usually in Little Village), however, if you can wait a few weeks, save the sombreros for the 7th annual Mole de Mayo celebration cooking May 27-29. Set in the historic Pilsen neighborhood, this fiesta pits local restaurants against each another to win the title of  best rendition of the rich, complex Mexican mole sauce. Held outdoors when Chicago is in full bloom, the free admission festival promises food vendors; a market with Pilsen businesses and craftspeople selling goods; two stages of live music and dance; and a lucha libre wrestling ring. Ay mami!

Chicago Restaurants

The annual Cinco de Mayo party at River North’s Cantina Laredo always promises a bona fide fiesta and this year it’s between noon and 8 p.m. with a DJ spinning party music and Cinco ‘Ritas for an easy $5.

Tuco and Blondie, 4 Star Restaurant Group’s “Mexifun” concept in Lakeview, will be celebrating the holiday beginning at 9 a.m. with brunch, a Taco Tent on the patio serving a la carte tacos, chips and guacamole and a mariachi band to serenade the crowds.

Pioneer Tavern Group (Frontier, Lottie’s Pub, The Pony) offers a Cinco de Mayo Trolley Crawl, traversing all three locations. Each stop features variety of food and drink specials like $3.50 Dos Equis, $6 Dos-Aritas, and $3 tacos, as well as giveaways and live music. The Cinco de Mayo Trolley Crawl is free to ride and begins at 7pm at Lottie’s Pub (1925 W Cortland) on Friday, May 5, running every 30 minutes between all three locations.

The West Loop’s Carnivale pours Margarita and Tequila specials all day and offers live musica by Mariachi Monumental de Mexico as well as traditional Chinelos dancers.

Rockit Bar & Grill, will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo for five days leading up to the holiday with “Cinco Days of Cinco,” May 1-May 5. The restaurant will offer a selection of five different chef-driven tacos for $4 each or three for $10. The selection of taco fillings include: Al Pastor with braised pineapple, jicama, cilantro and lime; Barbaco with pico de gallo and lime; Ongo Y Renos (Mushroom, Peppers and Cheese) with creme fresca and pickled onions; Beef Tongue with escabeche (pickled vegetables), corn nuts and ranch dressing; and, Fried Squid with naraja salsa (orange and chili de arbol salsa), radish, green chorizo, avocate (tomatillo-avocado salsa) and fresh cucumber. Drink specials include $5 margaritas and $5 Coronas. Rockit Bar & Grill suggests their Strawberry Habenero Margarita.

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