Wednesday, December 17, 2014

(Food) Tour de Mexico

Sometimes I get obsessed with food, and eating ALL of it. So this summer we started a Mexican Food Tour of Grand Rapids, trying out many of the many Mexican places that we had never ventured to, in order to experience and compare them.

As means of comparison, with few exceptions, I ordered cheese enchiladas at all the locations. As well as Chips + Salsa.

1. La Huesteca - This place is just around the corner from my house, yet I didn't even know it was there.  This was the universal favorite for the group. Skip the chips, they're no good, but overall, it's very authentic place with decent tamales.
1811 Plainfield Avenue Northeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
2. San Jose Taqueria - By far the most authentic of our locations, and overall a fun eating experience. Good food, good tamales, good vibes. And I love drinking Coke out of the bottle.
1338 S Division, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
3. El Sombrero - Known for their tamales! In fact, they sell out of tamales daily... not  having known this... we got no tamales. However, we did get delicious, and probably the most unique, chips—though the lack of salsa almost cost them third place! The location and outdoor seating sealed third for them. Overall an authentic taste, great tortillas, and I loved the sauce on my enchiladas.
527 Bridge Street Northwest, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
4. El Arriera - A bit more American in flavors and proportions, this place was well rounded. Great salsa, great chips, good tortillas, and just really satisfying Mexican meal. The location prevented El Arriera from stealing the third place ranking!Southridge Center, 2948 28th Street Southeast, Kentwood, MI 49512 

6. Cantina - My favorite as a kid — it had been a decade since I'd been here, and the place had been completely redone. While the atmosphere is fun, it seems more gimmicky than authentic. The food was pretty standard American Mexican fare, BUT they did have some pretty amazing Cheese and Bean dips. Worth going back for more cheese. Good for larger parties. 
2770 E Paris Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 

7. El Granjero - The food here was good, and may even be more authentic than some of the ones I ranked above it, but in general, it just seemed middle of the road to me. The atmosphere was somewhat lacking and the meal was less memorable. 
950 Bridge Street Northwest, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
8. Maggie's Kitchen – Maggie's was hard to get to because of their weird hours. I ended up just stopping in for carryout one day. Really good tortillas but rather bland rice and beans. And again, skip the chips and salsa. I think this would have been a better as a dine-in experience, and I like to try them again sometime. The interior was surprisingly spacious and clean, would be pretty good for seating larger parties.  
 636 Bridge Street Northwest, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

9. Tacos el Cuñado (Downtown Market) - I think it was a mistake to not try the Cuñado at Bridge and Pine. Because, in my opinion, the one in the Downtown Market isn't Mexican food, it's hipster food. And if you want hipster tacos, go to Donkey.
435 Ionia Avenue Southwest, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
10. Cinco de Mayo - Good chips, good salsa, and overall good food. But I've never really thought Cinco was very authentic Mexican—it's not TexMex, it's just... a lot of cheese. Which has some appeal. 
114 Monroe Ctr NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 (+ Rockford)
11. Beltline Bar - The first stop on our tour is legendary in GR for their burritos. And yes, the burritos are HUGE... and could probably feed a family for a week. The veggie burrito was good, but didn't strike me as remarkable, and overall, the challenge to eat as much of it as I could, left me a little uncomfortable. However, I would rate their salsa highly (but the not the chips). The Beltline Bar loses points with me for inauthenticity—it seemed based on what Americans think Mexican should taste like and what we think Mexican restaurants should look like. It was also full of (white) Americans.
16 28th Street Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49548

The experiment could have gone on forever, and I know we left a few places out. But compromises needed to be made and deadlines drawn. A overall few learnings as takeaways from this adventure
1. The shadier the place looks, the better the food is going to be. 
2. Coke always tastes better from a glass bottle. 
3. Salsa as we know it, is probably not all that authentically Mexican.

Speaking of salsa... if you're looking for a variety of salsa in the American way, try Fajita Republic. I hate to call them out because it's so chain-esque, BUT they do have really fun salsa combinations — you can basically order a flight of salsas!

Anyway... I don't know about you, but I'm full. Time to let the beans and rice settle and plan the next eating adventure. Tiramisu? Mac & Cheese? The perfect fry? 

1 comment :

  1. Good job! Some differences of opinion but good job.