Photo courtesy of Armando's

It's time for Houstonians to celebrate the historic day on May 5, 1862. That date marks the Mexican army's pivotal defeat of the French army at the Battle of Puebla, during the Franco-Mexican War. Contrary to popular perception, May 5 is not Mexican Independence Day, but Cinco de Mayo is a time-honored calendar date in the U.S.

And it's a time to party. Here in Houston, that means local bars, clubs, and restaurants will serve up Mexican fare, beer, and mucho margaritas. Here are some favorite spots for a serious Cinco de Mayo celebration. Fiesta safely, Houston.

Legendary River Oaks hot spot/see-and-be-scene hang Armandoskicks things off on Thursday, May 4 with the restaurant's now-legendary, anything-goes, late-night dance party.

The fiesta continues on Cinco de Mayo proper, with one more late-night bash a DJ spinning danceable tunes. Indulge in classic sips or the extravagant River Oaks Rita ($46), made with Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila, Patron Citronge, fresh lime juice, agave, a house-made “green” salt rim, and a 24-carat gold lime slice.

Tacos A Go Go is spicing things up with irresistible specials and a party on the patio at its Greenway Plaza location. Taco lovers can head to any of the four locations to enjoy $5 elote street corn, $2 Mexican sandy shots, $5 Ranch Water or a bucket of 6 for $25. 7 am.

The five Los Tios bustling locations will serve an all-day happy hour, featuring the famous $5 house margaritas, $6 gold margaritas, plus $1 off beers, plus merch giveaways. Those near the flagship San Felipe location can enjoy a Cinco de Mayo Parking Lot Party from 2 pm to close. Those festivities include a DJ, mariachi, a live donkey for photo opps, food, and more.

Over at Home Run Dugout, enjoy $4 Mexican Beers, $4 Mexican candy shots and $12 margarita flights. Stick around for live music by Los Cool Arrows, starting at 7 pm, and surprise contests with your chance to win a Home Run Dugout gift card. 11 am.

Hilton Americas-Houston will offer a Tacos and Tequila pairing. Enjoy two Blackened Gulf Snapper tacos with avocado crema and charred jalapeño lime slaw and a Classic Margarita with House Tequila for $25. Available at Lobby Bar and 1600 Bar + Grille.

All the Molina’s Cantina locations will have $6.50 Molina’s margaritas during happy hour and mariachis from 6 to 8 pm. To eat, choose from grilled fajitas with beef, chicken, or combo. 11 am.

The Rustic will have live music, drink specials, food features and more! This free event will also feature $5 margaritas (frozen or rocks), $5 Dos Esquis drafts, and $20 Dos Esquis beer buckets. 11 am.

Over at The Union Kitchen's Memorial location, indulge in a mouth-watering three-course dinner for $60, and savor the flavors of Mexico. 11 am.

Chic Montrose Italian steakhouse Marmo will serve up the Margherite ($18), a special, off-menu cocktail featuring Corazón Blanco tequila, cantaloupe, honey, and smoked salt. 11 am.

Axelrad will feature two drinks with Gimmie Gomas, a locally made chamoy. Customers can also enjoy $1 off margaritas all day and enjoy live music starting at 7pm from Mariachi Imperial de America and Andrea Mariachi. Noon.

Houston, Axelrad, April 2016, patioThe party is always brewing at Axelrad. Photo by Jamaal Vince Photography

Authentic Mexican eatery Arnaldo Richards’ Picos— or Picos, as it's commonly known — will celebrate outside in the parking lot underneath a 50-foot tent from noon to 11 pm. Look for a cash bar full of Cinco de Mayo drinks and margaritas, a food station offering street tacos, ballpark nachos, and guacamole and chips for purchase, and more. Tunes come courtesy of two DJs and a mariachi band from 6-7 pm. Be sure to grab the goodies and swag. Noon.

Heights Thai favorite Kin Deewill shake it up with two, award-winning margaritas — with a buy two, get one free special from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. Try a sweet and spicy Tom Kha Margarita ($18), featuring Don Julio Blanco, lime juice, Thai herb-infused syrup inspired by the famous Tom Khaki soup, and a kick of galangal. The Butterfly Pea Margarita ($18) is made with Don Julio Silver, Cointreau, fresh lime, and butterfly tea infused with lemongrass syrup.

La Grange will open early, with DJ Blue Heron Yacht Club providing tunes from 7 pm to midnight. The Montrose hotspot will also serve up a special cocktail, called Millionaire Margarita, for $25. Noon.

Downtown favorite El Big Bad's 13th annual blowout will feature liquid nitrogen frozen margaritas — touted as “the coldest frozen margaritas on the planet” — along with $5 house margaritas all night long. In addition, the night will offer a holiday market, face painting, and DJs. The party continues on May 6 with a charity pub crawl (3-7 pm) that benefits MuXerHTX. 1 pm.

Kirby Ice House will celebrate the festive holiday in style with tequila, margaritas, and Mexican beer buckets all day and night. Partygoers who stop by the Memorial or Eastside locations can also enjoy the mariachi bands that will be onsite. Happy hour specials run from 2-7 pm.

The Heights Social will have festive Cinco de Mayo-themed drinks, a special kitchen menu and featured deals on bottles of tequila. A DJ will join the festivities in the evening. 3 pm.

Warehouse 72 will have chef Jaime Salazar’s special, four-course Tres Generaciones Tequila dinner for $99 a person. Enjoy dishes like aguachile de atun, sopes de pollo ahumado, wagyu carne asada, and tres leches cake for dessert. 3 pm.

Bar Louie is offering $7 Dos Sauza margaritas, plus guests can also enjoy the brand-new Rock & Rita on this special holiday. Pair these refreshing drinks with 50% off bar bites such as the trio dips & chips, chicken quesadillas, and other flavorful options. 4 pm.

Cadillac Bar will have a party DJ, along with a mariachi band so you can enjoy live music all night long and dance the night away. There will also be a taco stand with street tacos, cantina nachos, chips & queso, and chips & salsa. 4 pm.

East End Backyard will have a fiesta with music, food, and drinks. Enjoy tacos, tortas, gorditas, quesadillas, and more from La Esquina Food Truck. Mariachi Houston will also stop by to play some of your favorite classic songs. 4 pm.

Hilton Americas-Houston will have a tacos and tequila pairing at the lobby bar and 1600 Bar + Grille. Enjoy two blackened Gulf snapper tacos with avocado crema and charred jalapeno lime slaw and a classic margarita with house tequila for $25. 4 pm.

Houston Cinema Arts Societyis teaming up with The Storyhive for "Cinco de Hive-o" bash. Join them for an evening of entertainment featuring Folklorico dance by Ballet Folklorico Herencia Mexicana de Houston, a photo booth, and some fantastic raffle prizes. 5 pm.

Urban South HTX will have a celebration, with a DJ, a taco truck, beer releases, a michelada vendor, a Mexican candy vendor, and more. Also, sign up to paint your very own canterito to take home. 5 pm.

Down on Allen Parkway, Flora will celebrate with festive decor, $8 Flora margaritas, and free pours of Santanera Tequila. In addition, its private dining room will become the Frida Patio Bar. 6-10 pm.

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Country icon Willie Nelson returns to traditional 'hillbilly' inspiration in new album

The Red Headed Stranger goes Blue

Almost as much as Willie Nelson is known for Austin, he's known for Nashville — and for subverting it. The 90-year-old singer has made an iconic, and extremely long career of conforming to and bucking against musical expectations, and now he's circled back around to tradition — without losing his own sound.

Nelson's new LP, Bluegrass, is his first album-length tribute to the traditional country genre. Yet, released on September 15, it's not even his first album of 2023. It follows I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard, a tribute to the Nashville songwriter who gave folks "I Fall to Pieces."

Bluegrass, in a way, is Nelson's genre-bent tribute to his own work. The setlist gathers a dozen of the songwriter and his fans' "favorite" songs he wrote, according to a press release, re-rendered with a bluegrass ensemble.

The focus on orchestration highlights that this is a collaborative effort by the amiable, but largely solo performer. One song, "Good Hearted Woman," is the only track on the album not just written by Nelson, thanks to the similar creative genius of outlaw country great Waylon Jennings. Willie's son, Micah Nelson, created the cover art: an appropriately blue portrait of the singer with warm undertones and a wreath of familiar recreational leaves. The album was produced by Willie's longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon.

Willie Nelson BluegrassNelson's son created the cover art — in blue, of course.Image courtesy of Willie Nelson; created by Micah Nelson

Even if a listener doesn't recognize each song on the album, Nelson's voice is as unmistakeable as ever. Against a bluegrass arrangement, it floats undisturbed and unhurried. At times, it even sounds like Nelson and the band are performing in different meters, the band bustling along cheerfully while the singer lounges around the beat — but never on it.

In fact, listeners who avoid Bluegrass may find their tune changes when listening to these laid-back renditions. "Still Is Still Moving To Me" brings the more frenetic tempo and multi-part harmonies that the genre is known for at its most ferocious; but iconic songs like "Sad Songs and Waltzes" and "Yesterday's Wine" may not even strike listeners as bluegrass if they're not listening for it — just very string-heavy traditional country tunes.

"On the Road Again," "Man With the Blues," and album-opener "No Love Around" are perhaps the tracks that benefit the most from the Bluegrass treatment. All three seem a little more cheerful, a little more upbeat, and a little more reassuring than their original forms. There's nothing warmer than hearing the iconic "On the Road Again" melody on gut strings — except perhaps listening to the country legend offer his "advice" over that plucky, self-assured backcountry orchestra.

Most important, the arrangements rework rather than rewriting the songs. None of the renditions give off an air of hokeyness or trying to shake things up; These are just great country songs that sound even better with a banjo. It makes sense that the change in instrumentation wouldn't shift much, since according to the release, Nelson decided to record the tribute because the style informed so much of his natural songwriting style.

"Using his own catalog as source material, in the spirit of traditional bluegrass sourcing hillbilly folk music, Willie chose songs combining the kind of strong melodies, memorable storylines and tight ensemble-interplay found in traditional bluegrass interpretations of the roots (from European melodies to African rhythms) of American folk songs," acknowledges the release.

By Texas Monthly'scount (shared in the release), this is Nelson's 151st album. Avid collectors can look forward to a 12-inch special edition pressed in blue vinyl, available for purchase on September 29. Preorder ($29.98) at willienelson.com.

This year the songwriter was honored with a five-part documentary series, a blowout 90th birthday concert, the naming of a prestigious arts endowment by the University of Texas at Austin, and two Grammy Awards. His book, Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs, comes out October 23. He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame days later, on November 3.

Listen to Bluegrass on your favorite streaming platform. More information is available at willienelson.com.

Kevin Hart's tequila party and our Charlie Robison remembrance lead week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Kevin Hart invites Houstonians to his tequila bottle signing event in Midtown. The actor and comedian dropped by Spec's this week for a special event.

2. Remembering Charlie Robison: Houston-born country music giant passes away at 59. He stands tall, literally and figuratively, as a Texas rebel who traded national country music sheen for staying true to his Texas roots, editor Steven Devadanam notes.

Charlie Robison Houston-born Robison passed away on September 10 in San Antonio. Photo via CharlieRobison.com

3. Foo Fighters get ready to rock Houston with just-announced fall tour date. Of course, tickets sold out almost immediately.

4. Home of the Aggies revels in top-10 spot on new fastest-growing U.S. college towns list. Its population has nearly doubled since 2000.

5. 3 Houston golf courses score best in the state title by Texas Monthly. They're among the most unique, reasonably priced, and accessible golf courses in Texas.

KLM unveils one of only 4 posh Crown Lounges in the world at Bush IAH's Terminal D

fit for royals

Houston has long been a hotbed of discriminating global travelers who demand the kind of cushy confines other world-class city airports offer. With that in mind, international airlines are targeting George Bush Intercontinental passengers with their improved upmarket amenities.

Perfect timing for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines — the world's oldest airline still operating under its original name — to unveil its newly renovated KLM Crown Lounge in Bush IAH's Terminal D. Just one of four in the entire world, Houston's new Crown Lounge reflects the same signature aesthetics of the Amsterdam-based airline's luxe lounges. (Two Crown Lounges are in the Netherlands; a third is in Toronto and is also newly renovated.)

In IAH's Terminal D lounge, that means visitors can expect a refreshed and updated lounge spanning nearly 4,000 square feet and offering 100 seats. Warm and modern design — a hallmark of the company's Amsterdam-inspired aesthetic — features palette of blue, grey, black, and copper brown — all touched up with the company's signature KLM Blue.

Baseball glove-soft and ergonomic eco-leather chairs and plush fabric seating utilize eco-friendly and upcycled materials while providing relief for weary travelers. Meanwhile, new flooring, sleek fixtures, and major upgrades to the bathroom create a sense of hotel over airport. Traditional Dutch delft houses are showcased on the wallpaper, harking to airline's Netherlands homeland, while wall art teases the on-board flying experience.

More on those delft houses: A KLM Delft Blue house display will showcase the various miniature houses from over the years, each depicting a real Dutch building. As travelers in the know are aware, the Delft Blue houses — each containing gin — are an exclusive gift for the World Business Class passengers traveling on international flights. The latest Delft Blue House, dubbed House #104 by the airline, will be released on October 7.

For those opting to eat at the airport, the Crown Lounge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner via a self-service buffet. Peckish passengers can dine on hot and cold food options, salads, daily soups, sodas, juices, wine, beer, and spirits. A KLM USA spokesperson tells CultureMap that the airline plans to revamp the dining offerings "in the near future."

As for access, the KLM Crown Lounge is open to all qualifying business passengers from KLM, Air France, and their SkyTeam partners. Members of Sky Team Elites, Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, and Lounge Key also can enjoy lounge privileges. Day passes will be available for purchase as available for a mere $50.

The lounge operates between 6 am and 9 pm — ideal for those who might while their day away in the airport getaway.

IAH travelers can look forward to another KLM update. Starting on October 29, Houston passengers can fly KLM's 787-9 Dreamliner. The airline's state-of-the-art jet features KLM’s World Business Class with direct aisle access, KLM’s new Premium Comfort Class, and Economy Class.

“Houston is one of our top markets in the U.S., and this upgraded lounge is a wonderful new offer, reaffirming our dedication to providing travelers with the utmost comfort and convenience,” said Eric Caron, general manager of North America at Air France KLM, in a press announcement. “We look forward to welcoming our valued passengers in soon, providing an experience that will make their time at the airport as memorable as the destination itself.”

KLM Crown Lounge George Bush Intercontinental

Courtesy of KLM

Signature KLM blue hues and Blue Delft houses mark the design.