It’s the busiest dining day of the year, the biggest horse race of the year, and the one day of the year when it’s (sort of) OK to swig tequila from a churro straw.
We’ve got a long weekend of eating ahead.
Cinco de Mayo is Thursday, the Kentucky Derby is Saturday, and Sunday is Mother’s Day — when some 80 million non-cooking Americans will take the moms in their lives out for eggs Benedict and mimosas.
You could kill all three birds with one stone: churros in bourbon sauce with a Bellini, a brunch burrito with a mint-julep chaser. Or you could take a more nuanced approach and give each holiday the dining respect it deserves.
That’s where I come in, with personal picks for the some of the best local places to celebrate each event deliciously.
For a drinko on Cinco
• Agave Bar Grill: The wide array of tequilas, the hand-crafted mixers, the hand-muddled add-ins. These are serious margaritas for serious margarita lovers. (2380 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples; 598-3473; agavenaples.com)
• Los Cabos Cantina: This downtown resto-bar makes its margarita mixers in house using organic sugar and fresh lime juice. It only serves tequilas made from 100 percent blue agave, which some health experts say is actually good for you. (2226 First St., Fort Myers; 332-2226; loscaboscantinafl.com)
For an authentic taste of Mexico
• Carniceria Monterrey III: Aguas frescas made from crates of fresh fruit, layers of al-pastor meat twirling slowly on a vertical spit, a bar of scratch-made salsas. Don’t let the barred windows and dusty parking lot fool you, great food is served here — and I hear the Lehigh location is even better. (11530 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers; 939-6992; locations in Lehigh and Immokalee; carniceriamonterrey.com)
• Tacos el Tequila: The chile relleno is excellent, fried in a puffy batter that crunches and melts. The tacos are great, too, little three-bite things sprinkled in cilantro and onions with the requisite sliced radishes on the side. Despite the name, there is no tequila. But there are cervezas and even micheladas, so don’t fret. (1751 NE Pine Island Road, Cape Coral; 242-8715)
• Tortilleria La Rancherita: This remains my taco heaven. Tender, made-that-morning tortillas wrapped around lush barbacoa or slow-braised carnitas — it doesn’t get much better than that. (26751 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs; 498-4633)
Eat and drink like a Kentuckian
• Farmers Market Restaurant: That Kentucky colonel’s got nothing on this fried chicken. Fried to order, it takes a little extra time. But with 64 years of history here, what’s 20 minutes? (2736 Edison Ave., Fort Myers; 334-1687; farmersmarketrestaurant.com)
• Skillets: One of the rare local places where you can find a Kentucky Hot Brown — think open-face turkey sandwich doused in Mornay sauce with bacon and tomato. It’s Kentucky comfort food at its finest. (Five locations in Naples and Bonita Springs; skilletsrestaurants.com)
• Truluck’s: This place is known for its attention to detail, and its mint julep is no different. Served with the crushed ice and the fresh mint and the bourbon of your choice, all those just-right details make one great drink. (698 Fourth Ave. S., Naples; 530-3131; trulucks.com)
• Nevermind Awesome Bar Eatery: Seekers of smooth, small-batch bourbon, this is your bar. Michter’s, Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s — all you have to do is remember which pony you bet on, and how to hail an Uber car for the ride home. (927 Cape Coral Parkway E., Cape Coral; nevermindcapecoral.com)
Somehow moms became equated with brunch. There are far worse associations.
• Cork Soakers: Deviled eggs, risotto, shrimp and grits, and one of the best Bloody Marys, excuse me B!*# Slap Bloody Marys, in town. These guys don’t take brunch seriously, they just do it right. (837 SE 47th Terrace, Cape Coral; 542-6622; corksoakers.net)
• Courtney’s Continental Cuisine: The Bloody Mary is $4.50 on the everyday menu, eggs Benedict with creamy-rich Hollandaise start at $9. This is every bit a fancy, high-end brunch, just without the fancy, high-end price tag. (20351 Summerlin Road, south Fort Myers; 466-4646; courtneyscontinentalcuisine.com)
• M Waterfront Grille: There’s quiche for the traditionalists and a tartar of heirloom beets for the non. The smoked salmon, hot-buttered lobster roll, and steak and eggs fall somewhere in the middle. But no matter where a dish lies on the spectrum, know it will be good. (4300 Gulfshore Blvd., Naples; 263-4421; mwaterfrontgrille.com)
• The Standard: Located at the base of Hotel Indigo, this place does brunch right: oysters Rockefeller, hash with house-made sausage, a full bar and bottomless mimosas. Your mom will thank you. (1520 Broadway, Fort Myers; 219-6463; thestandardftmyers.com)
Combine two and give to mom
This drink recipe mixes the tequila from Cinco de Mayo with a Derby julep. Hand one to mom for a trifecta.
2 oz. Casamigos anejo tequila
25 oz. simple syrup
8-10 mint leaves
Garnish with mint sprig
Add ingredients into julep glass or tumbler. Muddle mint. Add Casamigos. Fill glass with crushed ice. Add metal swizzle spoon/straw. Stir. Add more ice to give a cone shaped top. Garnish with mint sprig.
Jean Le Boeuf is the pseudonym used by a local food lover who dines at restaurants anonymously and without warning, with meals paid for by The News-Press. Follow the critic at facebook.com/jeanleboeufswfl or @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram.