Things To Do

Double Your Pleasure with Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo

Another photo of a mint julep. You're welcome.
Photo by Carla Gomez
Another photo of a mint julep. You're welcome.

Could there be a better way to start off May than a weekend of mint juleps and margaritas? We think not. While our proximity to our South of the Border neighbor and large Mexican-American population makes our affinity for Cinco de Mayo understandable, we are also jumping on that Southern Derby Day bandwagon as well. From fajitas and ritas to juleps and Kentucky Hot Brown, Houston is ready to start summer early with parties all weekend. Here's a list to get you started. We're off to the races!

Derby Day, May 4

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Southern Gents looking dapper for Derby Day.
Photo by Emily Jaschke
1919 Washington

This critically acclaimed bar, as in Bon Appetit's Best New Bars in America 2015 acclaim, will host its 5th Annual Derby Day Garden Party May 4 from noon through race time. There will be two screens for the race, lawn games, a Spritz bar, mint julep bars and three cocktails bars. There will be lots of bars, basically, for getting into a festive Derby Day mood. Add in a DJ, live music and live auctions for whiskey tastings and it's a recipe for Southern pleasure. The El Topo food truck will be there and Riel's Ryan Lachaine will be making his unique hot dogs. Owner Alba Huerta has procured 5,000 blooms for the event from local farms and businesses, so it truly will be a garden party. And that means dressing for the occasion. With over 1,000 guests last year, the event is a popular one for seeing and being seen. So, be seen looking fabulous, daaahling. Think of the Ascot Races scene in My Fair Lady, but 21st century.

Tickets are $15, with discounts for 4 or more.

B.B. Lemon
1809 Washington

This restaurant and bar from Berg Hospitality opened in November 2018, so this will be its first Kentucky Derby Patio Party. It will begin at 2 p.m. and go through 6 p.m. There will be a Derby-inspired cocktail menu from Elijah Craig, a hat contest with prizes, yard games and DJ Ramalama providing the musical backdrop. For watching the race itself, there will be two indoor televisions and two outdoors.

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Goodnight Charlie's has mint juleps for a good day.
Photo by Nuray Taylor
Goodnight Charlie's
2531 Kuester

This upscale honky-tonk and Maker's Mark are presenting a Derby Day Garden Party from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with plenty of live bluegrass music, befitting a Kentucky tradition. Buffalo Nickel Bluegrass Band and William and the Texas Starlight will perform. The $20 ticket will get attendees a julep cup, plus one choice of either chips and hot brown queso (with fried pork belly!), pickled shrimp tostada or hot chicken with pimento cheese tacos. Additional snacks will be $10. There will also be a best hat contest. We're thinking party-goers can be less Ascot and more "old Kentucky home" with their attire at this venue.

Brasserie 19
1962 West Gray

The Kentucky Derby Social at this River Oaks restaurant will run from noon to 7 p.m. where it will be streaming pre-derby coverage and races while beautiful people show off their fascinators, fedoras and boaters.  A mint julep or other Derby Day cocktail in hand will complete the outfit. The best chapeau will take home a prize. Or, at least its owner will.

Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
4310 Westheimer

Bosscat will host a party on its front patio from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with $8 Maker's Mark mint juleps from bar director Matt Sharp along with Chef Peter Petro's Kentucky Hot Brown entree. There will be eight flat screen televisions for watching the "Run for the Roses".

The Rustic
1836 Polk

This restaurant/bar/live music venue has plenty of room for party goers to mix and mingle at its Talk Derby to Me event. It begins at noon. The signature mint juleps, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, lemon mint and a dash of Ysabel Regina brandy make for perfect sipping as you listen to live music and admire the clever outfits that your fellow minglers have donned. Celebrity judges (not sure who, but it's safe to assume it's probably not Beyonce or George Clooney) will choose the Best Dressed Female, Best Dressed Male and Best Dressed Couple with the prize being a $100 gift card. There will also be a special Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich available made with smoked turkey and bacon, tomatoes, mornay sauce, cotija cheese and served on grilled Texas toast. The mother/daughter duo, Cliffs and Caves, will perform two sets, one at 12:30 p.m. and another at 4 p.m. The Royal Dukes Band will play a variety of music beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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Axis and Alibi is part of the Cinco de Mile on Washington.
Photo by Shane Shannon

Axis and Alibi
5701 Washington

This newly opened (April 26) hybrid bar and lounge will open its doors at 3 p.m. for a before-the-race cocktail party with mint juleps made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, fresh mint and simple syrup. For those who are not big fans of mint juleps (I am raising my hand), there are cocktails like the Oaks Lily made with vodka, fresh sweet and sour, cranberry juice and lemon. The Off to the Races is a concoction of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, Chardonnay, lemonade and orange juice. Derby Day attire is encouraged.

Mint Julep Recipe from Alba Huerta
As featured in her 2018 book Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned
The book was recently named a finalist for the 2019 International Association of Culinary Professionals Awards.

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Photo by Michael A. Carl

Julep cup + straw

Serving Ice:

10 mint leaves
1/2 oz Turbinado Syrup
2 oz mid-80s-to-90 proof bourbon

2 or 3 mint sprigs
Powdered sugar

Place the mint leaves and syrup in the julep cup and lightly press with a muddler. Leave the muddler in the glass and add the bourbon, pouring it over the muddler to rinse it off. Stir with the muddler to mix. Fill the cup a little more than halfway with crushed ice, and stir with a bar spoon 15-20 times. Add more ice to form a dome on top. Place the straw in the cup.

To garnish, press the mint sprigs between your fingers to release their aroma then tuck them in the ice next to the straw. Dust the mint sprigs with the powdered sugar.

Cinco de Mayo, May 5

Hopefully, you haven't used up all your fun and funds celebrating Derby Day, because you'll need to get an early start Sunday for everyone's favorite celebration of May 5, 1862 in which Mexican forces defeated France at the Battle of Puebla. If that's not a reason for drinking margaritas and jamming to mariachi music, we don't know what is.

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El Patio's blue margaritas have been a Houston favorite for years.
Photo by Becca Wright
El Patio, Club No Minors
6444 Westheimer

This Mexican restaurant has been around for decades and besides its quirky name, it is also known for its potent and visually stunning blue margaritas. The celebration starts at 11 a.m., but the real fun begins when the tequila promoters show up at 2 p.m. with Herradura and Avion until 4:30 p.m., then the Patron promo from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a photo booth and a DJ beginning at 4 p.m. plus Tino Mariachi from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Cyclone Anaya's Cinco de Cyclone's
Bagby Park, 415 Gray
CityCentre, 800 Town and Country Boulevard

Cyclone Anaya's is hosting two giant celebrations from noon to 8 p.m. at Bagby Park and CityCentre. There will be live music, a DJ, a festival market, photo booths and kids activities. General Admission is free, but you have to purchase food and beverage vouchers. However, if one plans ahead, one can get a $29 package that includes 2 food vouchers, 2 drink vouchers and a special gift. For kids 6 to 12, the $9 VIP Kid option includes 1 food voucher and 1 drink voucher. For children under 6, food and beverages can be purchased separately. Its six restaurant locations will also be celebrating the holiday. For tickets to the outdoor celebrations go to :

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Hay Merchant is serving Mexican Crawfish.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Hay Merchant
1100 Westheimer

Many folks consider Houston to be the most diverse city in America and nothing gives us more reason for that designation than our tasty jumble of cuisines. Crawfish may not be the first food that comes to mind when one thinks of Cinco de Mayo, but if anyone is the culinary sheriff (or chefriff) in town, it's Chris Shepherd and he can make his own laws.  His bar/restaurant Hay Merchant is celebrating the fifth of May with a Mexican-inspired crawfish boil. It will be served with corn and chorizo and tossed in Mexican spices. Move over, VietCajun, Mexi-Cajun is moving in. There will also be specials on margaritas, palomas and shots such as Siete Leguas Blanco and Del Maguey Vida.

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The Roastery has more than coffee.
Photo by Adrian Verde
The Roastery Coffee Kitchen
5895 San Felipe

The newest and grandest of The Roastery's locations recently opened April 8 and for its first Cinco de Mayo celebration, it is offering some seriously good deals on food and drink. There's far more than coffee here, though they have a couple of bargains for those who don't drink alcohol or are designated drivers. It will serve $3 Mexican cold brew Horchata and $3 Aztec spiced cocoa, hot or cold. For those who do want to imbibe there are $2 Coronas and Modelos, $3 Micheladas and $5 Roastery margaritas and red sangrias. There will also be plenty of food specials such as $2.50 street tacos, $2.50 queso and chips, $2 elote, and $8 pork posole, starting at 11 a.m. on May 5.

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Fajita Pete's will make your Cinco de Mayo party easier.
Photo by Pedro Mora
Fajita Pete's
16 Greater Houston locations

Sometimes, you just want to stay home and party with your nearest and dearest, and Fajita Pete's can take away the stress of cooking for a crowd by offering catering and delivery. A mix of fajitas can satisfy most tastes, plus all the fixings make it easy to just sit back and enjoy a frozen margarita with your best peeps. Fajita Pete's can deliver the margaritas as well, so the host is not tied to a blender as guests line up in the kitchen impatiently. Order a gallon or two and be a part of your Cinco de Mayo party rather than the manual labor.

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Soto's has a great porch for al fresco fiestas.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Soto's Cantina
10609 Grant

Though this family-owned Cypress restaurant is normally closed on Sunday, it is making an exception this year for Cinco de Mayo. On May 5, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m it will hold a parking lot party and margarita festival. There will be free appetizers and $7 margaritas in 10 flavors. There will also be $5 tequila shots. It's within stumbling distance of my house, so you know where you'll find me this Cinco de Mayo.

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Pistolero's has a tower of ritas awaiting your thirst.
Photo by Becca Wright
1517 Westheimer

If Derby Day isn't your bag, Pistolero's is celebrating Cinco de Mayo both Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 with a two-day parking lot party. On Saturday, there will be $6 Cazadores margaritas and $3 PAMA or St. Germain floaters. There will be mariachi karaoke, or Kariachi, as Pistolero's coins it. Giveaways and trivia round out the fun. On Sunday, El Jimador margaritas are $6 and there will be a live art display, a photo booth, giveaways and music from DJ Rhino.

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The Kinder HSPVA mariachis perform at Discovery Green.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Discovery Green
The Grove
1500 McKinney

Discovery Green will have its inaugural Cinco de Mayo clelebration from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. with performances from the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Mariachis, J-Dance Company, Ballet Folklorico Herencia Mexicana de Houston and a play by Nueva Luna. Amanda Solis will perform a Selena tribute and DJ Gracie Chavez and Bombon's La Comadre (Mel Gomez) will emcee. The Grove restaurant at Discovery Green will serve its Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. so you can try its mango margarita beforehand, a sweet and spicy rita on the rocks with ghost pepper-infused tequila, or to-kill-ya, as we like to call it.

Miss Carousel

1201 St. Emanuel

For its first Cinco de Mayo, Miss Carousel will have a menu of chips, salsa, queso, tacos and campechana, plus drink specials.

Eight Row Flint

1039 Yale

Celebrate at 8RF by enjoying $8 rita rocks and $15 Big Ass Frozen margaritas. There will also be giveaways and beer specials, plus Rrey Kolsch will be on hand promoting its Kolsch cerveza. Yep, German-style beer from Mexico.

Night Heron
1601 W. Main

From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. patrons can enjoy $7 margaritas at this Montrose hot spot. Go for the ritas, stay for the burgers, as Kate Mclean suggests here in the Houston Press.

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Killen's TMX is killing prices for Cinco de Mayo.
Photo by Dragana Harris
Killen's TMX
9330 Broadway

The good people of Pearland will have plenty cause to celebrate close to home with 1/2 price beef and chicken fajitas and $1 margaritas at Killen's TMX. The fajita special does not include Wagyu beef or carnitas. And the $1 rita special is limited to 2 per person, which is probably a good thing.

Molina's Cantina
7901 Westheimer
3801 Bellaire

This 75 year-old Mexican restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy Cinco de Mayo. There will be live music from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., free chips and queso at the bar, plus drink specials such as the $6.50 Molina's Margarita. There will also be $3.75 domestic beers and $4.25 imports.

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation
2704 Navigation
This Houston dining stalwart founded by Mama Ninfa, the First Lady of Tex-Mex, is serving a red,white and green trio of margaritas for $12 in watermelon, cucumber and jalapeno flavors. If that doesn't float your boat, you can order the Original Ninfarita, the Navigation Margarita or try one of the unique flavors such as mango habanero or spiced apple.

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Arnaldo Picos hosts Fiesta Under the Big Top.
Photo by Nick de la Torre
Arnaldo Richard's Picos Restaurant
3601 Kirby

Picos will host two events this weekend. On Saturday, May 4 it will have its Zydeco de Mayo with crawfish by the bucket, tacos, tamales, Sonora hot dogs, a salsa bar, plus bigger-than-your-face quesadillas, all in a 5,000 square foot outdoor space. It will continue the celebration on Sunday, May 5 with the Fiesta Under the Big Top. There will be the Picos traditional brunch buffet and margarita specials, including Don Julio Shaker Ritas for $12 and $10 Cuervo Tradicionale Palomas.

933 Studewood

We just have one thing to say about BCK's Cinco de Mayo offer. Woo-hoo! $5 margaritas all day! Oh, and one more thing, they come in three flaves: classic, blood orange and watermelon.

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Start Cinco de Mayo off with Superica's huevos rancheros.
Photo by Mary Caroline Russell
1801 N. Shepherd

This restaurant from Ford Fry opened in September 2018 serving Fry's take on Tex-Mex, though he opened the concept in Atlanta first. On May 5, you can check out the weekend brunch serving favorites like chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and migas from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Try the El Frio, its house margarita or the O.G., a classic rita. There is complimentary valet parking.

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You can celebrate the Derby and Cinco de Mayo, with a little Day of the Dead thrown in.
Photo by James Coreas
The Rustic
1836 Polk

The Cinco de Mayo party starts early at The Rustic with a family-style brunch, live music and photo ops with a miniature donkey from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. After that, the restaurant will be serving flights of tacos and tequilas until close.