Small bites: Asheville celebrates Cinco de Mayo

MADE FROM SCRATCH: Buxton Hall's Jorge Vazquez will lend a hand at MG Road's Cinco de Mayo celebration, offering authentic Mexican plates. Photo by Michael Files

Whether or not margaritas played any role in the Mexican army’s moral victory against the French on May 5, 1862, we may never know. Outnumbered and poorly supplied, they nevertheless held their own as 6,000 French troops attacked Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico, during the French-Mexican War (1861-67).

Fast-forward 71 years and discover that in 1933, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo gained popularity in the U.S., thanks in part to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, which aimed to improve relations between the U.S. and Latin American countries. Add to this the U.S.’s ever-expanding affinity for tequila (a 2015 report by Statista notes an annual consumption of over 300,000 liters in North Carolina alone) and voila — the celebration continues to grow.

On Friday, May 5, food and drink menus throughout Asheville will carry on the tradition. The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village will offer $1 off all fajitas and fish entrées. The restaurant will also offer $5 off all pitchers of margaritas, sangria, Modelo and Dos Equis (

On Merrimon Avenue, AVL Tacos and Taps will celebrate with a variety of deals as well as a new menu item. The restaurant’s house tacos, which come with either hard or soft shells and offer options that include beef, chicken, carnitas (pork) and tofu, will be available for $2.50 each. In addition, the restaurant will offer $1 off its walking taco, which is an individual-sized bag of Doritos or Fritos topped with beef, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream. Finally, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, AVL Tacos and Taps will introduce a brand-new menu option — a fried fish taco.

At Ole Shakey’s on Riverside Drive, Jim Beam will host a dance party featuring DJ Phantom Pantone. Margaritas will be $5 (

On Charlotte Street, Mamacita’s Taco Temple will host Tequila and Ceviche in conjunction with Asheville Cocktail Week. The ticketed event will feature Fernando Avila, master distiller of Casa Sauza. Participants will sample a series of classic tequila cocktails while learning the history of each beverage. Taco Temple will pair each drink with a variety of ceviche, a South American dish of marinated raw seafood. The gathering will run from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $42 (

Buxton Hall cook Jorge Vazquez will help facilitate MG Road’s celebration on Wall Street. Vazquez will create an authentic Mexican menu with three types of tacos (including a vegetarian option), tamales and homemade salsas. DJ Mexicano Isaac will provide the evening’s music. Food will be available from 6 p.m.- midnight (while supplies last). Music starts at 9:30 p.m. (

Meanwhile, Bartaco on Biltmore Avenue will have live music from the local band Natural Born Leaders as well as free kids activities, including face painting, a DIY s’mores bar and complimentary Bartaco patches (

Finally, downtown on Patton Avenue, Sonora Cocina Mexicana will offer food specials, including a quesadilla poblano, mole enchiladas and barbacoa torta. Plates range from $5-$14. Drink specials include house-made red and white sangria for $6 a glass, $6 margaritas, $10 specialty margaritas, $2 select Mexican beer and a featured tequila for $6 a shot (

Flaming Hot

Fried chicken, wood-grilled pancakes and spring veggies will all be on the menu at Flaming Hot, a springtime cookout that celebrates equality and diversity in Western North Carolina. In addition to food, the event will feature music, beer and wine. The event, put on by sister restaurants Table and Tod’s Tasties, is part of a larger series of community-focused dinners. “These events are important to the Table family because it’s our way of giving back to the people that support us everyday,” says Table’s general manager, Kelly Vormelker. All proceeds from Flaming Hot will benefit Equality NC, a statewide organization that works to secure equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Flaming Hot begins at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Tod’s Tasties, 102 Montford Ave. Admission is free. Food is $20 per plate with all proceeds benefiting Equality NC. To learn more about the organization visit For more on the event, visit

River Arts District Farmers Market

On Wednesday, May 3, the River Arts District Farmers Market will open for the season. As part of the celebration, All Souls Pizza will offer RAD Farmers Market pizza specials with ingredients sourced from participating vendors. “When you buy this pizza, you will receive one free $5 token to use at the market while supplies last,” says market director Kate Eckhardt. Live music will be performed by Searra Jade.

The River Arts District Farmers Market happens 2-6 p.m.Wednesdays through Nov. 22 at 175 Clingman Ave. For details, visit

Sunday Brunch at Habitat Tavern and Commons

Habitat Tavern and Commons is partnering with chef Clarence Robinson to host a Sunday brunch series. The event’s Facebook page notes that Robinson, who is the founder of Cooking with Comedy Catering, will blend “his love of soul food with comedy that is good for the soul.” Menu highlights for the inaugural event on Sunday, May 7, include fried beef bologna, salmon patties, sweet potato hash browns and sweet Hawaiian cinnamon rolls. Prices range from $6-$12. Beverage options include $5 beers and $6 mimosas.

Sunday Brunch launches Sunday, May 7, at Habitat Tavern and Commons, 174 Broadway. Hours: noon-3 p.m. For details, visit

City launches Asheville Edibles Program

The city of Asheville recently launched the Asheville Edibles Program, which will allow community members to grow food and pollinator plants on publicly owned land. The new initiative includes three components: Adopt-A-Spot is in partnership with Asheville GreenWorks and allows individuals, businesses or organizations to plant and maintain either an edible or pollinator garden with dedicated signage that recognizes the site. The Community Garden program offers neighborhoods and organizations areas throughout the city to lease land at no cost for growing produce. And the Urban Agriculture Lease program grants qualified applicants the chance to lease city-owned property at fair market rates.

To learn more, visit


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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