It's Friday night at 1 a.m., and all you want in the whole world is a taco. Luckily, Armando's Mexican Restaurant is there, ready to serve you a dish and maybe pour you a margarita nightcap. Though it's open late, Armando's is no sleepy dive—even after midnight, it's typical to see a line of people waiting to snag one of the tile-topped tables. Nearly a half-century after opening—and almost 30 years after the Tigers celebrated their 1984 World Series title there—the restaurant is still one of the city's most beloved. The Huffington Post recently named it as a staple of Detroit's Mexican-food scene. CBS Local praised their signature sizzling fajitas for their juicy marinade, and also declared that Armando's has "one of the best tortas" in Detroit.
Aside from the lauded, eclectic menu—which includes Cuban sandwiches, Spanish steak, and the perennially popular Baja seafood tacos—it's easy to see why the restaurant retains such a following. Warm yellow walls hung with vintage photos give the dining room a homey feel, while a covered patio beckons with colorful flags and twinkling lights. The casual atmosphere invites guests to linger over a peach margarita while watching the game on flat-screen TVs, or to camp out at a table once mariachi players begin to strum a lively tune. Luckily, Armando's makes it hard for anyone to overstay their welcome: they're open until 2 a.m. Sunday–Thursday and until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Growing up with eight siblings, Rafael López came to value the nights when the whole clan gathered around meals. Using recipes from his homeland, the Mexican native now re-creates such feasts at Señor López Mexican Restaurant. Rafael's culinary team showcases their talents with specialties such as housemade tamales and cheese-filled fried poblano peppers covered in special ranchera sauce. The rest of Señor López's enormous menu spans the spectrum of classic Mexican flavors, from vegetarian fajitas and beef-tongue tacos to breakfast burritos filled with chorizo and eggs.
After 20 years in the restaurant business, the owners of the family-owned Tijuana's Mexican Kitchen embrace tortillas as a highly versatile food. The flour wraps form the foundation of diverse dishes, including chimichangas, tamales, fajitas, enchiladas, and a fresh-prepared Mexican sandwich built on three flour tortillas slathered with gravy-drenched layers of rice, beans, and beef. After washing their entrees down with their choice of margaritas, desserts such as churros bring meals to a decadent conclusion.
Sam Alvarado’s passion and respect for handcrafted Mexican food started at a young age. He grew up watching his family cook at home and in the kitchens of Detroit’s popular Mexican Fiesta restaurant chain, which his grandfather founded. Today, as the co-owner and head chef of Fuego Grill, Alvarado draws from that early culinary foundation to craft his own menu of fresh, made-from-scratch dishes that “more than impressed” a food writer for the Dearborn Free Press. He assembles traditional entrees such as carne asada, milanesa sandwiches, and fish tacos with halal meats and locally grown vegetables, creating cuisine that’s as flavorful and conscientious as a chocolate-covered Jiminy Cricket.
Tim Castañeda's culinary education began at his family's dinner table. Nourished by the fresh salsas and flavorful meats, Tim developed a deep appreciation for and understanding of the traditional flavors of Mexican cuisine. After cooking in his family's restaurants during his youth, Tim continued to perfect his recipes and spice blends in Mexican eateries throughout the country. He brings his years of experience to Zumba Mexican Grille, where he whips up freshly made tacos, burritos, and quesadillas reminiscent of the authentic dishes of his childhood.
Named for the Spanish slang word for "energy," Zumba bustles with color and zest—from its shiny stainless-steel counters and rainbows of wooden chairs to the skirt steak, red-chili pork, and fresh vegetables sizzling on its grills. When customers walk in, their first step is to pick meats, toppings, and black, pinto, or magic beans. Then the servers behind the counter begin building Mexican specialties—including the burritos, named the city's best by Real Detroit Weekly. After receiving their orders, guests stroll over to the fresh salsa bar, where six different housemade varieties in various spice levels await them.
A colorful mural of a lakeside beach stretches across Casita del Lago's dining room?a nod to the restaurant's name, which translates to "little house by the lake." Soft hanging lanterns and a crackling fireplace bathe the room in light, illuminating the colorful glazed pottery that lines the walls. In the kitchen, chefs chop fresh ingredients for the homemade salsa that glazes over traditional dishes, as saucepans simmer with their signature mole sauce. Behind a sprawling bar, bartenders dole out pitchers of fruity margaritas, savory sangria, and bottles of imported Mexican beer. Outside, tabletops speckle their outdoor patio and bar, where guests can bask beneath the sunlight.