Cinco de Mayo — the 5th of May — is when Mexico celebrates its army’s victory over the French in 1862 in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War of 1861-67. Many of Washington’s restaurants pay tribute to the Cinco de Mayo celebration.
During this busy month, one Japanese restaurant is even celebrating Children’s Day.
El Centro, D.F. (1819 14th St. NW and 1218 Wisconsin Ave. NW) will prepare a buffet of Mexican fare Tuesday. The price at the door is $15 (cash only). Specials include pork carnitas tacos, grilled chicken fajitas, ceviche, roasted corn, chicken flautas, vegetable empanadas and hanger steak skewers. Margaritas with strawberry or mango puree and Mexican bottled beers are $5.
At Central (1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW), special dinner selections are on tap, either as a tasting menu ($55) or a la carte, including shrimp and guacamole, fish tacos and pollo mole. Jalapeno/watermelon margaritas, white sangria and tequila and mezcal cocktails will slake thirsts.
Fuego Cocina Tequileria (2800 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington) starts its celebration with a Tequila Throwdown from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the restaurant’s lounge. Complimentary samplings will be available, and the winning tequila will be featured in the restaurant’s El Perfecto cocktail for the rest of the year.
Two cazuela specials are on the menu at City Tap House (901 Ninth St. NW). Cazuelas are South American stews named for the cazuela, or pot, in which they are cooked. Beer braised beef short ribs in mole negro sauce, or beer braised chicken and salsa verde will be served with guacamole, Mexican rice, black beans and flour tortillas for $25 or $20, respectively.
From Monday through Wednesday, Mio Restaurant (1110 Vermont Ave. NW) will offer a variety of appetizers and entree specials, available all day. Included in the specials are oxtail stew with five chiles; tacos with slow stewed pork and grilled pineapple; Mexican rice and corn; and sopa de Oaxaca con huevo (cheese, avocado, chile, tortilla and poached egg). Prices range from $10 to $23.
Complimentary chips, salsa, and passed hors d’oeuvres will be offered at Zengo (781 Seventh St. NW) and Toro Toro (1300 I St. NW) at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Drink specials will be available, and a disc jockey will provide entertainment from 7 p.m. to closing time.
To celebrate the Cinco de Mayo, Masa 14 (1825 14 St. NW) will feature $5 Mexican beer and house red and white wines in the lounge and on the roof deck, along with three flavors of margaritas from noon to closing. A Latin-Asian buffet with passed hors d’oeuvres will be available for $20 at the door (cash only). A disc jockey will spin music from 5 p.m. to closing.
May 5 is Children’s Day in Japan, a national holiday originating in the eighth century. Traditionally, girls were celebrated on May 3 and boys on May 5. Ladies first. For the girls’ festival (the Doll Festival), households were decorated with Haian Period dolls and plum blossoms. For the boys’ festival, the Japanese fly carp streamers and display Samurai dolls. On May 3, in honor of Children’s Day, Daikaya (705 Sixth St. NW, 202/589-1600) will serve complimentary soft-serve ice cream, topped with strawberry sauce, for children younger than 12 dining with their families in the ramen shop or in the upstairs Izakaya restaurant.
At 10 a.m. May 16 and May 23, Daikaya will be teaching a class in the art of Sapporo ramen making in the restaurant’s first-floor Ramen Shop. Classes are limited to 10 people and are priced at $35 per person. At the conclusion of the one-hour class, participants will be invited to order the ramen of their choice. Call 202/589-1600 for tickets.
Just after Cinco de Mayo comes Mother’s Day this Sunday. Masa 14, Zengo, Ardeo-Bardeo (3311 Connecticut Ave. NW), Toro Toro, Ambar (528 Eighth St. SE), Georgia Brown (950 15th St. NW), the Oval Room (800 Connecticut Ave. NW), The Bombay Club (815 Connecticut Ave. NW), Arcuri (2400 Wisconsin Ave. NW) 701 Restaurant (701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW), Station 4 (1101 Fourth St. SW), Ripple (3417 Connecticut Ave. NW), Roofers Union (2446 18th St. NW), and Boss Shepherd’s (513 13th St. NW) will feature live jazz and offer three-course prix fixe brunches ranging from $30 (Arcuri) to $55 (Oval Room and 701).
May celebrations end with Memorial Day, which falls this year on May 25. City Tap House will host an oyster shuckfest from 2-6 p.m., accompanied by live bluegrass music and games on the outdoor patio. The purchase of a dozen oysters entitles the diner to a choice of red wine mignonette or City Tap House exclusive mignonette. Brunch will include fried oyster po’ boys, fried oyster Benedict, and grilled oysters Rockefeller. Dishes are priced from $1 to $12.
At just-opened Pizza Studio at 1333 New Hampshire Ave., customers can create their own “masterpieces.” Another newcomer is Veloce (1828 L St. NW), where Pizzeria Paradiso chef-owner Ruth Gresser introduces “fast food” pizzas. Urban Heights in Bethesda at 7940 Norfolk Ave., a pan-Asian restaurant specializing in dishes based on chef Cliff Wharton’s Filipino heritage, is another recent arrival in the area.