Warm, red and white tortilla chips spill forth from a basket. Slow-cooked black beans are simmered with poblano peppers and blended with spice. Aged colby cheese melts together with tender shredded pork inside a hand-rolled enchilada. Traditional ingredients, house-made with care, fill the inventive dishes at El Barrio Mexican Grill. House-made salsas, sauces, and cheese blends accompany most of the grill’s hearty fare, with deep-fried Tijuana corn dogs diving into dishes of creamy melted queso blanco and avocado-ranch dressing winding around wedges of grilled avocado inside soft flour tortillas. The specialty shredded-pork carnitas fly to tables in salt-rimmed skillets that hearken back to the full bar’s margaritas, adding to the festive, cantina-like atmosphere and spurring discussions about which ocean tastes the saltiest.
Moe's guests file along the cafeteria-style line instructing the meal-makers on the preferred type of bean or meat. Banish beany burrito cravings by indulging in an Art Vandalay ($5.39, $4.49 for junior size), a culinary hug for herbivores stuffed with traditional meat-free fixings, or opt for the fresh-pressed John Coctostan quesadilla ($6.09), filled with the grilled meat of your choice, beans, and shredded cheese. Shareable selections, such as the Billy Barou nachos ($6.59) loaded with tender meat, beans, queso and jalapeños, make excellent paperweights, while the under-12 crowd can nosh the hard or soft Power Wagon taco (includes drink and cookie, $3.29).
Tres Lobos Restaurant politely shushes unruly stomachs with a vast, eclectic menu of fresh, spicy Mexican eats, then douses potential tongue-fires with cerveza and margaritas from the full bar. Kick off a vicarious road trip to Tijuana with the nachos fajitas ($9.95) or ranch-flanked buffalo wings ($9.95) before delving into dinner combos such as El Presidente ($10.25), which strains plates with a taco, beef tamal, and a chili relleno. Tres Lobos' famous wet steak and shrimp burrito ($10.50) bundles together a cornucopia of meats, cheese, veggies, beans, ranchero sauce, and rice so that it can be easily fired down open mouths with a T-shirt cannon. Enchiladas vegetarians ($9.25) sates more herbivorous leanings while saving them the long wait-time of growing tomatoes tableside.
According to the blog from Experience Grand Rapids, a few years back, a place by the name of Tacos El Ganadero shut down, leaving its employees jobless. That didn't last long, however, since one of those employees decided to step up. Rather than sink with the ship, Mercedes Lopez-Duran bought the restaurant and saved her coworkers' jobs in the process. She re-named it El Granjero, or "the farmer" in Spanish, as a reflection of the new menu's farm-fresh ingredients.
El Granjero has been a hit in Grand Rapids since it opened. Lopez-Duran continues to run the show, and her selection of authentic Mexican food has developed a throng of loyal followers. The menu features a la carte specialty gorditas, deep-fried tacos, and wet burritos, which are smothered with salsa and melted white cheese. There are also Mexican specialties such as grilled cactus and menudo, plus Mexican hot chocolate, the best thing for a cold day besides a pair of socks warmed in the oven.
At Little Mexico Cafe, corn and flour tortillas enfold steak, chicken, and vegetables to create traditional Mexican fajitas, enchiladas, and chimichangas. Homemade sauces slather cheese-laden creations spiced up with jalapeños and racy limericks, and chefs also charter a course toward sautéed, grilled, or stuffed jumbo shrimp. The two-story restaurant showcases bright Aztec-themed murals by artist Roli Mancera, and banners of papel picado flutter overhead in the sunny, yellow upstairs dining room. After a devastating fire in 2008 that burned the original Little Mexico Cafe to the ground, resilient restaurateurs Enrique and Consuelo Ayala rebuilt the eatery for a 2010 reopening, where the community revelry was covered by The Grand Rapids Press.
Generations of treasured family recipes make up the foundation of Mi Ranchito's menu of south-of-the-border specialties, made fresh every day from authentic imported ingredients. The house special birria estilo "Mi Ranchito" ($12.95) tempts tongues with tender chunks of pork smothered in a deluge of spicy homemade barbecue sauce and is served with tortillas rice, beans, and guacamole. The golden, deep-fried chimi ($8.25) comes stuffed with a choice of beef, chicken, veggies, or beans and is topped with red or green sauce, and a "dear john" letter pre-addressed to your personal trainer. Patrons will be thankful the giant wet burrito ($10.50) forgot its umbrella at home as they are swept away in a torrent of homemade enchilada sauce, beans, cheese, and a choice of beef or chicken. Families looking to augment their tableside fiestas with appetizers can lasso in an order of four nachitos ($4.25), a specialty appetizer dish of taco-shell halves spread with refried beans and topped with cheese, jalapenos, and onions, or brush up on their division skills by sharing an order of three homemade hot tamales ($6.25) four ways.