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Taking the Fifth 

Cinco de Mayo in Charlotte

Officially, Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican holiday to commemorate the 1862 victory of Mexico over the French. Americans love the concept of celebrating freedom and the vivid celebratory atmosphere that comes with it -- in this case, all-out revelry with margaritas, beer and shots of tequila. Oh yeah, and some food. Charlotte has a range of Mexican eateries, from upscale to hole in the wall. Some restaurateurs have acquiesced to American stereotypic Tex-Mex, but many others offer some dishes from both sides of the plate.

Never had avocado ice cream? Latorre's, in conjunction with Hass Avocados from Mexico, is hosting a week-long celebration. Their special Cinco de Mayo menu will run from May 1 through May 5 and will feature innovative dishes made with Hass avocados. On the lunch menu is a hot-pressed blue crab Cubano with queso blanco, avocados and tomatoes. A featured dinner app is the cumin cured salmon empanaditas with red onion escabeche and Hass avocado whipped cream. The dinner entrees include an ancho chile rubbed wahoo over roasted poblano and cream cheese empanadas with a red chile and tomato compote with avocado ice cream. On Friday from 5pm to 8pm, Latorre's will host an Open Hass Bar Party with free tastings and mojito drink specials.

Latorre's Restaurant and Bar, 118 West 5th St., 704-377-4448.

Although it's hard to beat a cold Mexican beer and tableside guacamole at Frank Schbelli's Cantina 1511, on Friday, May 5, from 5pm until 11pm they will feature a Mexican fiesta to include DJ Eric Moriera, live music from Simplified; a buffet of Cantina's signature dishes; and beer, wine and margarita stations.

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

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 that caters to families. Language outside of the menu can be an issue with the servers, but if you want authentic, this is the place. 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 condiments from across Mexico. Try the quesadillas, either wheat flour or corn, or the parrillada. Linares does not offer border food: This is strictly north Mexican comfort cuisine.

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

Maria Bonita is an attractively appointed, more upscale Mexican eatery in the neighborhood shopping center at Rea and Colony. For the Fifth, they plan to have a live band on their popular patio and drink specials.

Maria Bonita Mexican Grill, 7741 Colony Road Suite, 704-542-6165.

Azteca is one of those restaurants that must foster an entrepreneurial spirit in their employees since so many of them have gone on to open other Mexican restaurants in the Charlotte area. For Cinco de Mayo, Azteca, known for their generous portions, is planning $8.95 margaritas and giving away some T-shirts.

Azteca Mexican Restaurant, 116 E Woodlawn Road, 704-525-5110.

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