Latinos have always been looking for ways to connect with their roots, and food has always been the best way to gather the community together under the heritage. These Mexican restaurants are bringing traditions, culture and authentic Mexican food to Grand Rapids.
Each year from September 15 to October 15, Americans celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month and pay tribute to the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans and immigrants whose ancestors came to the United States from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
The celebration started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and then in 1988 was expanded to cover a 30-day period. It begins in the middle of the month, as opposed to the end, because the 15th marks the independence days of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize follow shortly after, on the 16th, 18th and 21st respectively.
Hispanic Heritage Month honors the generations of Hispanic-Americans who have positively influenced and enriched American society. It particularly celebrates arts and culture, and of course, Hispanic gastronomy. With Hispanics making up more than a quarter of the U.S. population today—and growing fast—experts say this change is dramatically flavoring the American culinary experience. Traditional Hispanic foods have been making their way into American diets for years, and it is now common for Americans to include nachos, enchiladas, chorizos or queso fresco in their day-to-day meals.
Most Hispanic cuisine has blended into mainstream American culture, creating many variations of Hispanic-inspired dishes such as the well-known Tex-Mex: a fusion of Mexican and American cuisine, primarily as a result of Tejano culture. The most notable difference between Tex-Mex and original Mexican cuisine lies in cooking methods and ingredients used.
In this matter, Grand Rapids and many of its Mexican restaurants are making a difference by offering what is known as authentic and traditional Mexican cuisine. These small businesses are thriving by bringing the original gastronomy, ranging from pre-Hispanic food to unique tamales from Veracruz, from their home regions in Mexico to Michigan. Here we have a list of four Mexican restaurants in Grand Rapids that are embracing our Hispanic heritage:
118 Fulton Street East, Grand Rapids 49503
Mexo was born out of Chef Oscar Moreno’s interest to teach other cultures what authentic Mexican food is. Oscar is originally from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, studied culinary arts and, from an early age, worked for restaurants involved in the hospitality and tourism industry.
After working for several years in different restaurants in Michigan, 14 months ago he decided to open Mexo, whose slogan is “Pre-Hispanic Modern Mexican.” “Mexo is a fusion of ancestral Mexico’s legacy and its culture after the Spaniards’ arrival. Our menu is built around a pre-Hispanic diet. Our ancestors had a very healthy diet based on herbs and saw food as medicine. They had a lot of respect for agriculture and ingredients,” says Chef Oscar Moreno.
Mexo aims to show people what real pre-Hispanic Mexican food is all about. Its menu is based on Mexican pre-Hispanic ingredients such as nixtamal (a mixture of maize and lime), and it offers unique dishes such as Caldo de Piedra (usually a soup of fish cooked with vegetables and herbs in stones) or Cochinita Pibil (marinated pork in strongly acidic citrus juice, seasoned with annatto seed which imparts a vivid burnt orange color, and roasting the pork wrapped in banana leaf). It features a Prehispanic Chef Dinner Series, in which chef Oscar Moreno provides a night of great food and drinks: a delicious and unique five-course menu for people to enjoy and learn about the prehispanic food and culture.
1253 Burton St SW, Wyoming
Owner Mary Alvarez moved to the United States in 1998 when she was 17. She started working in restaurants cooking, what she knew best back home in Colipa, Veracruz. After working for a while at Restaurants, she acquired a Tacos el Cuñado franchise and years later, decided it was time to open a second restaurant,based on one of her other talents: doing the best tamales from Veracruz Mexico.
Three years ago she and her husband Humberto Alvarez opened Tamales Mary offering seven different types of Tamales; now they are running up to 15 varieties, which are so unique that no other restaurant in Grand Rapids can compete. “We have chicken, beef, pork, bell peppers with cheese, black beans with fresco cheese. There are even dessert flavors like pineapple, strawberry, sweet corn, and chocolate on special occasions. Also, vegetarian options are available,” she explains.
At Tamales Mary, they also have delicious Veracruz-style food. Taco bar is available on Tuesday and Tamales buffet on Wednesday. And if you are around downtown Grand Rapids most probably you will bump into Tamales Mary food cart, with unique Tamales and combos.
El Globo Restaurant
2019 S Division, Grand Rapids
“The restaurant started as a small Mexican snack stall in November 2004 inside Megamall,” says Evangelina Abundis, owner of the Globo Restaurant, who, alongside her husband Oswaldo Cordova, started this business that has been growing little by little, as they say, with a lot of work and dedication. Thanks to the increase in sales and customers, in September 2016, they moved to a spacious location where they are currently located.
The idea of opening the restaurant came from their need to find the flavor of typical food of Jalisco, Mexico, where they come from. “In Grand Rapids, there was not a restaurant with the tapatio [a nickname for Guadalajarans] flavor to which we were used, and thanks to El Globo, we can feel like in a “Rinconcito de Guadalajara” in this beautiful City of Grand Rapids, enjoying traditional food from our homeland,” says Evangelina.
At the Globo Restaurant, you will find traditional cakes, posole, leg slices, sopes, goat birria (a spicy stew), and many more dishes with Jalisco flavor and heritage. Additionally, they have tacos for $1 on Wednesdays—who can top that?
El Toro Bravo
4300 Clyde Park Ave. SW.
Sisters Salvia and Mariaelena Cano come from the state of Durango, Mexico. Salvia worked for a long time in restaurants, and as many Latinos, she wanted to have a Mexican restaurant, not a typical but a fast food restaurant that had a drive-thru, with a similar operation structure as McDonald’s.
El Toro Bravo was born in a garage in a house cooking typical Durango food on a wood stove, selling tortillas, menudo broth, huaraches, and gorditas.
In a short time, customers recognized the excellent service and good food, and the sisters decided to open a restaurant. They started at a small location in 2017 and later moved to a larger building.
“I always had the vision of having a restaurant. It’s a dream come true for me, and I never thought I could get it.
After the small location, God gave us the opportunity to get a new building where there was a Wendy’s, and so I could fulfill my dream of having a fast-food restaurant of authentic Mexican food,” explains Salvia.
Toro Bravo’s specialty is gorditas, with more than 12 different stews. Food is fresh and ready to serve. In addition, they sell burritos, quesadillas, menudo, enchiladas, camperos (simple arrangements of basic foods for campers) and huaraches (not the sandals, but meat and vegetables folded inside an oblong shaped dough).
Haz clic para leer en Español: Los restaurantes mexicanos enaltecen la herencia hispana en GR