Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Derby, Dos Diablos & Dynamite Deals

Derby-goers at the 2009 party at Arlington Park. (Photo: Arlington Park)

Brace yourself for a BIG drinking weekend.

The Kentucky Derby's May 1 and Cinco de Mayo doesn't even happen until the fifth, but that won't stop folks from indulging in advance.

In fact, Arlington Park gets the party started today with the grand opening of Longshots Sports Bar, which is equipped with 30 flat-screen TVs and a patio with a prime view of the track.

The Kentucky Hot Brown, a traditional Derby dish, will be served at Arlington Park on Derby Day. (Photo: Arlington Park)

The bar serves up classic pub fare, including loaded nachos, fresh-grilled burgers and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

For something more drool-worthy, wait until Saturday as Arlington and partner Levy Restaurants (Bistro 110, Spiaggia) throws Chicagoland's largest Kentucky Derby Party.

Executive Chef Ron Krivosik will be whipping up a menu identical to that served at Churchill Downs (Levy also caters the official Kentucky event), which will include traditional Derby recipes like Kentucky Hot Browns, Derby Pie, smokin’ succotash with sweet onion Lima beans and chick peas, and smoked beef brisket with bourbon barbecue glaze.

Of course, the drink of choice will be the Mint Julep—served in the official 136th Kentucky Derby glass—and look for spectacular hats to be on almost every head. It wouldn't be a Derby party without them.

Even more Mint Juleps, plus margaritas, moles and Mexican morning munchies . . .

We predict a raucous affair at the first-ever Talk Derby To Me Party at Faith & Whiskey. They're doing a number of drink specials ($5 whiskey shots; $6 Mint Juleps), best-dressed contest, plus the races will be shown on a number of flatscreens. Doors open at noon Saturday and the party continues until 3am.

Dos Diablos' Perfect Margarita, My Maria, El Mojito and Red Devil cocktails. (Photo: Dos Diablos)

It's all about the free at Fizz Bar and Grill, which hosts its annual Derby party in a casual setting. Whoa. The complimentary buffet will be filled with traditional dishes like Burgoo stew, Benedictine sandwiches, succotash, hot browns and bourbon brownies. Plus, if you buy the $10 commemorative glass, you'll get refills of Mint Juleps for $5. A contest to pick the best hat and seersucker suit will also happen at some point. 3pm-until Saturday.

It's an even more casual scene over at Mac's American Pub, which will show the races on nine flatscreens beginning at 11am. If that doesn't convince you, then maybe the $5 specials will: Maker’s Mark Mint Juleps; Jack Daniel’s BBQ-glazed chicken wings; and the Derby Burger, a half-pound Stock Yards Angus burger topped with grilled onions, Cheddar cheese and Jim Beam BBQ sauce.

But you'll have to step it up a notch if you head to Martini Park's Derby party. It's benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, and your ticket gets you unlimited food as well as an open bar of Mint Juleps, Mojitos and Derby-tinis. Also, live music, silent auction and a best-dressed contest. 2-6pm Saturday. Get the $75 tickets here.

Kit Kat's Paola Cruz performs as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira on Cinco de Mayo. (Photo: Kit Kat)

Dos Diablos has opened just in time for Cinco de Mayo celebrating. Veteran nightclub/restaurant owners Marc Bortz, Todd Rubin and John Merlo have transformed their former brashy burlesque bar Cabaret into an upscale cantina. Hey, since it's a holiday, go nuts and order the three-and-a-half pounder, 18-inch Big Mel—a chimichanga loaded down with sour cream, red or green sauce and cheese. If you can woof it down in 20 minutes, it's on the house. Or push the limit with their signature margarita, El Diablo, made with Patron Silver, Grand Marnier, Cointreu and a secret ingredient. They're supposedly so potent that you're limited to only three.

Lakeview's El Nuevo Mexicano grows the tomatoes they use in the salsa right on the patio so you know it's fresh. And if you don't get enough of their oversize margaritas, we hear that they also send a shot of tequila over with the bill. FTW for sure!

On Cinco de Mayo, Kit Kat Lounge is doing half-price margaritas and buy-one-get-one-free Mexican-inspired entrees. Female impersonator Paola Cruz, a.k.a. "The Mexican Doll," will also perform as Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and other Latin divas.

One of the best brunch deals in town right now is at Mercadito. For $18, you'll get an entree, rice and beans, and a cocktail. Our picks: Huevos con Carnitas (scrambled eggs, Berkshire pork carnitas, tomatillo pico de gallo and ancho salsa) or Pan Mexicano (Mexican French toast with cajeta and apple). Pair it with the Maria Sangrita (tequila blanco, tomato, cucumber, orange, chile verde and pomegranate) or Auntie Ox (green tea-infused vodka, passion fruit, agave, orange and guajillo). 11am-3pm Saturday, Sunday.

I still can't quite pronounce Tecalitlan, but that won't stop me from taking down those margaritas. They're made with simple ingredients, which make them absolutely perfect to complement with just about everything on the traditional menu.

If, by chance, you're still in a festive mood next weekend, check out the Mole de Mayo Festival at El Zocalo Plaza (18th Street and Paulina) in Pilsen. The outdoor event includes live music, the Lucha Libre Wrestlers, mariachis and Pro Arts Circus Group. We're especially excited about the mole contest, which includes amateur cooks as well as the pros from Fogata Village (Best Mole Award Champion 2009), Fig Catering, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Nuevo Leon (People’s Choice Award 2009), Real Tenochtitlan and Zocalo. 11am-7pm May 8. $1 admission.

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