Not Cinco de Mayo: 5 Places to Toast the REAL Mexican Independence Day

Get it straight: Mexican Independence Day is NOT Cinco de Mayo. We American’s know so little about the history of our neighbors, which I discovered on a recent trip to Guadalajara. Take a second and go here to learn about to read about Mexico’s War for Independence so you don’t sound like a racist cultural illiterate.

What you’ll learn is that, Mexico’s revolt against Spanish rule began on the early morning of September 16 in 1810, when Father Miguel Hidalgo… (Yeah. This guy!)

Mexican Independence Day

…rang the bell of his church in a town called Dolores. It was a call to arms that triggered the Mexican War of Independence. His speech, the “El Grito de Dolores” or “The Cry of Dolores” has taken on world-wide iconic status and is the beginning of the festivities in Mexico each year when the president re-enacts it from the balcony of the National Palace while ringing the same bell.

Go toast Father Hidalgo at one of these restaurants, the best examples of Mexican food in Salt Lake City. According to me. All these places have nice patios. All serve a good selection of margaritas and as my friends from Water Witch would prefer me to say, agave beverages.

  • Alamexo, 268 State St, SLC, 801-779-4747, and Alamexo Cantina,  1059 East 900 South in SLC, 801-658-5859.
    • Sister restaurants, but not monozygotic twins—both are serving specials for Mexican Independence Day: a Mezcal Fizz, with Bozal Ensemble Mezcal, orange juice, orange zest, bitters and Grand Marnier with a burnt orange peel garnish and chili sugar rim and a kind of surf & turf enchilada: Enchiladas Mixtos con Langosta Y Bistek: two soft corn tortillas filled with Maine lobster and Double R Ranch filet mignon, baked in a guajillo salsa and topped with lettuce, radish and queso fresco. A party on a plate.
  • Rico’s Cocina y Tequila Bar545 W. 700 South, SLC, 801-983-6692
    • One of the few places that serves chiles en nogade, from Puebla; a dish tied to Mexican independence because it is said they were prepared for the first time to entertain the future emperor Agustín de Iturbide when he came to the city after the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba. The green from the poblano chili, white from the nut sauce and the red from the pomegranate are the colors of the flag of independent Mexico. In the back bar, check out the variety of agave beverages to toast Father Hidalgo. 
  • Taqueria 27, dozens of them, it seems, downtown, Foothill, Cottonwood, Fashion Place…go to to find the one nearest you.
    • The duck confit quesadilla is famous, so is G.O.D., the guacamole of the day; besides tacos, there are mole plates, salads and lots of tequila.
  • And finally, controversially, Red or Blue Iguana (Blue Iguana, 165 W. Temple, SLC, 801-533-8900; 255 Main St., Park City, 435-649-3097, Red Iguana, 736 N. Temple, SLC, 801-322-1489; Red Iguana 2, 866 W. South Temple, SLC, 801 214-6050)
    • There’s lots to be argued about here, I know Most Salt Lakers know the story of how Red Iguana turned blue and the ancient falling out that led to two different colored lizards serving Mexican food in downtown Salt Lake. There used to be quite a division between Red fans and Blue fans—almost as deep as the one between the Mets and the Yankees. Mmmm, an exaggeration, but you get my point. The secret truth is, they’re both good—Red Iguana, with its generations of posters of rockers plastering the walls, is the standout for authentic moles and Blue Iguana is famous for its jenga-style nachos (go on—try to pull out a tostada from the bottom) and phone chargers on every table.

See all of our food and dining coverage here.

Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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