Weekend Beat: Cinco de Derby

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 Thursday 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Dos Diablos has opened just in time for Cinco de Mayo. 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.
  • 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.

Check out 312DiningDiva.com for even more Cinco de Mayo and local Kentucky Derby events.

Audarshia Townsend is the creator of the local food blog 312DiningDiva.com. She also provides content for Dining Chicago and Playboy.com.

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