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.
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.
Evencio Sanchez grew up on a coffee farm in Colombia and opened Mexicali Restaurant in 1983, fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning a business. To prepare the restaurant's traditional Colombian and Mexican fare, Sanchez's cooks follow family recipes that have been passed down through generations and certified as delicious by a committee of petulant children. Appetizers, such as creamy guacamole, are served with house-made tortilla chips. Mexicali's chefs draw from fresh ingredients and can add a fiery zest to most entrees with jalapeño and poblano peppers.
Behind her station at Glo Studio, stylist Daelynn Terrell revamps manes with cuts, color, and Kevin Murphy styling products. Meanwhile, clients can sip a complimentary beverage or browse the wireless internet streaming through the bright, airy space.
The slow-cooked recipes of the South migrated north when Chick'n & Fix'ns owners, Bob and Kenny, decided to team up and start a restaurant that combined old-time recipes with the fast-casual philosophy of many modern restaurants. Since opening for business in 2011, the crispy fruits of their labors have attracted local attention and even led City Pulse to hail their chicken strips as the best in town and call their smashed potatoes "rich" and "seriously adult." Friends of more than 20 years, Bob and Kenny bring a down-home charm to their restaurant’s casual and comfortable atmosphere as they piles plate with grilled and breaded chicken tenders and hearty pot pies. Never frozen, the entrees are served alongside made-from-scratch smashed potatoes and garlic cheese drop biscuits. Guests seated at booths or under pendant lights in the airy dining room may have a chance to converse with Bob or Kenny as they stroll around to check on the food and slice the tops off a seasonally-changing variety of overambitious cakes.
From sun up 'til sundown, El Burrito’s chefs are busy recreating Mexican classics. Chorizo and eggs tuck into tacos during morning hours, while the shells fill with chicken and steak during the afternoon. Tortillas are the mainstay of most dishes, serving as the base for bean and rice burritos, deep-fried chimichangas, and gooey cheese- and chicken-stuffed quesadillas. The chefs know that no meal is complete without dessert, and they sate any sweet tooth with pecan rolls, Mexican wedding cookies, and empanadas.