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.
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.