For Moses Arellano, the owner of Las Palmas Tequila bar in Bridgeton, Cinco de Mayo is a family holiday.
Born in Texas and raised in California, Arellano has great memories of the celebration that now seems to be every bit as American as other holidays like St. Patrick’s Day have become.
“I was always part of the parade,” Arellano says. “My family has members in car clubs and we have a lot of classic cars.”
Among his favorites were the low-riders — the tricked-out cars figured prominently in the Mexican-style shows.
Arellano’s dad, Hose Andres Arellano, owns the building where Las Palmas is housed. The restaurant belongs to the son, while the butcher shop, La Siesta, belongs to dad.
Arellano worked in finance after receiving his business degree in marketing. He moved to Bridgeton when his dad needed help opening the butcher shop.
“There was an opportunity to buy the liquor license and I figured if I can manage a bank, I can manage a restaurant,” Arellano says.
At home, Arellano’s mother cooked mostly Tex-Mex style foods that are reflected in his menu.
“We did a lot of barbecue,” Arellano says. “That’s my specialty.”
It doesn’t hurt that he can get all the freshly butchered meats he needs, right next door, from his dad.
Las Palmas’ menu that can be enjoyed during the annual celebration has all of the Mexican favorites and a few Italian dishes that are holdovers from a previous owner.
Starters include quesadillas ($8) stuffed with chihuahua cheese, pico de gallo and avocado served over a Mexican coleslaw made with a chipotle mayonnaise and a choice of chicken, beef or shrimp. Fried light and crisp, calamari ($10) is served with the housemade jalapeno and cilantro chile sauce.
La Siesta also carries seafood, so Las Palmas uses only fresh calamari.
The popular chicken wings (seven for $8; 13 for $16) can come with a homemade mild, spicy or BBQ sauce. Las Palmas appetizer sampler ($15) offers a taste of several items from the menu including chicken skewers, quesadillas, stuffed peppers, pico de gallo, guacamole, chips and flautas.
Soup choices include sopa de mariscos ($12), a special seafood soup and sopa de frijol ($6), a pureed pinto been soup.
Tropical fresh fruit salad ($8) is made with mixed greens and fresh seasonal fruit and is among the most popular salads with a choice of tamarind dressing or strawberry balsamic dressing.
“We make our own dressings, pretty much everything is made from scratch,” Arellano says.
Entrée choices include Oaxacan specialties such as pollo en mole poblano ($14), chicken quarters marinated in traditional Mexican spices and served with a classic mole sauce, which Arellano describes as being “darker and spicier and a little bit tangier.”
Pollo relleno ($14) is chicken breast stuffed with seafood mix, fish and shrimp, lightly breaded then deep fried and served in a yellow chipotle sauce. Alambro Mexicano ($18) is a grilled filet mignon with shrimp, mushrooms and serrano peppers.
Seafood dishes abound with the newest entry pescado a talla ($25), a grilled red snapper fillet served over a three chile sauce with rice, black beans and a side salad.
Most desserts are homemade such as the flan ($6), the famous baked custard, and the fresas con crema ($6), strawberries and cream.
In a restaurant that seats more than 100 customers with 30 seats at the bar, you would expect a large selection of beverages. Las Palmas does not disappoint. Specialty drinks include names such as Lava Flow, Fuzzy Mango, Mudslide and Tropicolada. Classic cocktail choices include assorted coladas, daiquiris and margaritas along with the house recipe Golden margarita. Non-alcoholic fruit smoothies are also available.
Arellano says that his dad has always been involved with the Bridgeton community celebration of Cinco de Mayo. This year, Las Palmas Tequila Bar is among the sponsors of the Cinco de Mayo 2014 Culture Fest to be held outside the restaurant on Washington Street at Cohansey Street.
The Cinco de Mayo 2014 Culture Fest is presented by the City of Bridgeton Main Street Association. Celebrated 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 4, the festival includes food, beverages and arts and crafts. Dancing horses, live bands, a beer garden and a mechanical bull along with live bands will offer something for every family member.
Here are some other restaurants you can enjoy during this weekend’s Cinco de Mayo celebration:
Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar, 900 Shore Road, Somers Point, 609-927-6665. Celebrating for the 31st time 4 p.m. until closing on Monday, May 5. Mexican food specials including grilled fajitas ($5.99), nachos supreme ($7.99), quesadillas ($5.99) and grilled fish tacos ($4.99). Regular menu and sandwich menu also available. Dos Equis draft pints ($3) and Corona 12-ounce bottles ($3.50). Giveaways and music.
Gypsy Bar, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, 609-317-1000. Saturday, May 3, beginning 4 p.m. Tequila & Tacos is a pairing of Maestro Dobel Tequila, a 100 percent blue agave tequila, with an assortment of tacos prepared by Borgata’s own Chef Mark Bruschi, Jr. $39 per person.
Tomatoe’s, 9300 Amherst Ave., Margate, 609-822-7535. May 5: Mexican specialties include posole ($6), carnitas (three for $8), tacos (three for $8) and ceviche. Sponsored by Patron Tequila; all Patron cocktails at special reduced prices and Patron swag. Cocktails ($9). Live music by Budesa Brothers.
Gallagher’s Steakhouse, Resorts Casino Hotel, 1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-340-6555. May 5: Half-price tequila shots and happy hour menu served to closing.
Gallagher’s Burger Bar, Resorts Casino Hotel, 1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-340-6554. May 5: Half-price tequila shots and happy hour menu served to closing.
Mexico Restaurant & Bar, 3810 Ventnor Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-0366. May 5: Drink specials, Mexican menu and free giveaways. Mexican beer bottles ($5), lime margaritas ($7). Live mariachi duet 6 p.m. to midnight. Reservations recommended.
Los Amigos, 1926 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-2293. Celebrating 36th annual Cinco de Mayo with specialty margaritas from more than 60 tequilas 11:30 a.m. to midnight May 5. Special menu and Mexican beer specials. DJ 5 to 10 p.m.
Dos Caminos, Harrah’s Resort, 777 Harrah’s Blvd., Atlantic City, 609-441-5747. May 5: Appetizers: spiked guacamole ($15) with Mezcal-soaked orange supremes, pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachios and goat cheese; steamed clams ($14) with roasted corn, chorizo, garlic, lime, Patron, cilantro. Entrees: cilantro crusted tuna ($26) cucumber mint salsita, mango habanero puree, and tempura avocado; duck chimichanga ($22) roasted duck, black bean corn pico, pinto beans, queso fresco and mole negro; smoked brisket taco ($15), smoked brisket, avocado, heirloom tomato salsa and chipotle tortilla. Dessert: vanilla flan ($9) with a strawberry rhubarb salsa; torta de Helado ($9) sweetened tortillas, vanilla ice cream, tequila infused raspberries, cajeta, crema. Patron Perfect margarita ($8) with the Patron models and giveaways. $5 margaritas at the bar. Complimentary chips and salsa. Latino DJ 7 to 9 p.m.
Vineland Downtown Improvement District/Main Street Vineland, 613 E. Landis Ave., Vineland, 856-794-8653. Third annual Cinco de Mayo multicultural celebration on the 600 block of Landis Avenue. 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 3. (Rain date Saturday, May 10). Mexican food, music and folk dancing along with multicultural cuisine, arts and crafts and educational exhibits. Free activities for children include face painting, moon bounce and pinatas. Horse parade, giveaways and demonstrations by Vineland Fire and Police Departments. Smooth jazz performed by Adelante, Motown and classic rock by Willy Sutton Band, regional Mexican music by Kolmiyo, and Mexican mariachi music by Mariachi Angels.
The Iron Room, Atlantic City Bottle Company, 648 N. Albany Ave., 609-348-6400. Cinco de Mayo twist on traditional margarita made with white whiskey. Regular price $11 on special for Cinco de Mayo for $6.
Don Jose Rojo’s Tacos, 601 Ocean Ave., Ocean City, 609-391-0970. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Shrimp tacos with rice and beans (two for $9); sopes del rancho (two for $9).
Rio Station, Grande Center Mall, Routes 9 and 47, Rio Grande, 609-889-2000. Specials include homemade shrimp tostados, crab enchiladas, fish tacos and authentic chicken and beef tomales made by Maria from the Morelos Mexican Restaurant. Specials range in price from $8.99 to $15.99. Authentic Mexican beer on tap and in bottles. Margaritas ($5).
Casa Taco & Tequila, Tropicana Casino and Resort, 2901 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-343-9938. Four-day celebration of Cinco de Mayo begins 4 p.m. Friday, May 2, with food and drink specials featuring Tres Agave and Cruz tequila. DJ begins at 9 p.m. On Saturday, May 3, happy hour prices run noon to 4 p.m. with Coronas or Tecates beer (five for $15) and Sauza shots ($5). Food specials include beef tacos (three for $5); nachos ($5) and taquitos (five for $5). Sauza tequila models with tastings and giveaways 7 to 10 p.m. and a DJ from 8 p.m. On Sunday, May 4, happy hour specials continue with $5 specials including Kah tequila. On Monday, May 5, Patron and Corona specials available all day with a DJ at 4 p.m. Giveaways and tastings all weekend.
The Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel, 25 Jackson Street, Cape May, 609-884-5700. Cinco de Mayo Dinner, Monday, May 5: special menu pays homage to regional Mexican food. First course: surf clam ceviche with pickled tomato, cilantro lime pepitas, huitlacoche vinaigrette. Second course: sweet plantain gnocchi with smoked tomato ragout, charred hominy, cotilla cheese, cilantro pesto. Third course: crispy whole black bass with red cabbage escabeche, chorizo black bean broth and crispy shishito peppers. Dessert course: smoked white chocolate and horchata crème brulee. Seating is limited. Reservations required. $65 per person plus tax and gratuity.
Distrito Cantina, Revel Casino Hotel, 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-225-9850. Food and drink specials available from Saturday, May 3, to Monday, May 5, include carnitas tacos ($3); salsa Mexicana ($6); and churros ($5); Corona and Corona lite cans ($4); Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo drafts ($5); and Patron cocktails ($7). Saturday night the Patron models will have giveaways from 4 to 6 p.m. Mariachi band from 7 to 9 p.m. then Corona models from 10 p.m. to midnight with giveaways.
Maynard’s Café, 9306 Amherst Ave., Margate, 609-822-8423. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo all weekend long. Specials begin Saturday, May 2, after the Kentucky Derby and run through Monday, May 5. Food specials begin Saturday night at 7 p.m. through Monday: authentic steak or chicken tacos (three for $5); nachos ($5), add steak or chicken ($3); homemade empanadas (3 for $5) served with homemade salsa and guacamole. Drink specials: Dos Equis ($2); Corona and Corona light bottles ($3); buckets of Coronitas ($10). Jose Cuervo specials ($4). Jose Cuervo promotion Saturday at 10:30 p.m. with giveaways. Cinco de Mayo swag.
5 West Pub, 3729 Bayshore Road, North Cape May, 609-889-7000. Authentic Mexican specials include huaraches con chorizo; taquitas con pollo and pozole sopa. Drink specials: Modelo ($3), Corona and Corona Light ($3) and homemade margaritas ($5).
Fitzpatrick’s Deli & Steakhouse, 650 New Road, Somers Point, 609-653-8155. Friday, May 2, through Monday, May 5 (open until 5 p.m. May 5 only). Lunch: chicken chimichanga with mild red chili sauce and melted pepper Jack cheese; chicken quesadilla, stuffed pepper, onions, cheddar and pepper Jack cheese; and beef tostadas, three crispy corn tortillas topped with beef, cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and jalapenos. $11.99. Dinner: Choice of chicken quesadilla soup, nachos grande or taquitos. Entrees: chicken chimichanga, chicken quesadilla, or beef tostados. Dessert: tres leches cake. Three courses $19.99.
Bellview Winery, 150 Atlantic street, Landisville. 856-697-7172. Cinco de Mayo Festival 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4. $10 per person includes wine tasting and souvenir glass. Live music all day from DJ Candela and food will be prepared by local restaurant Las Lomas of Hammonton.
The Pilot House, 142 Decatur Street, Cape May. 609-884-3449. Offering a special fundraiser for Cinco de Mayo 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 4. Open bar of beer and wine, a Mexican buffet, entertainment from the Pilot House singers and players. Tickets are $25 and will be available at the door.. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit CCA’s Youth Arts Program and WFCA-LP 101.5 FM radio.