Tag Archives: Mexicantown

DETROIT: Far East Southwest ??

2 Sep

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Today we are in East Southwest Detroit; the tiny section of Mexicantown east of I 75. I need a few things from the store so our first stop is Honey Bee Market . There are so many things I like about shopping here: the space is brightly lit, pinatas fill the top shelves surrounding the aisles, produce is fresh, colorful; my favorite thing, of course, is the guacamole. As soon as I step in the door, tubs of guac, pico and salsa are being chilled on ice, bowls of chips are plentiful, allowing one to sample freely. If you can walk away without a bag of chips and a container of dip, you have much more willpower than I! Avocados and tomatoes are piled high next to tomatillos and jalapenos, in case you’d like to make your own tasty dip. The first section is venduras frescas-fresh vegetables, along with everyday items, you will find a huge assortment of peppers, varieties of cactus pieces and yucca root; it’s all so appealing. Cheese is next; it’s fun to try a different kind from time to time, haven’t found one yet that isn’t tasty. Corn chips come in blue, salted or unsalted, the list of tortillas is long; flour, corn, crunchy, soft, in a multitude of sizes. Thirsty? How about some coconut or cactus water? If you’re looking for something fruity try a juice or nectar from Jumex or a Jarritos Mexican soda; hibiscus, strawberry and tamarindo are just some of the thirst quenching flavors.

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Signs hanging from the ceiling are written in Spanish and English, brings back a little of my high school Spanish; funny how some things stay with you. The meat counter is huge; beef, chicken, pork, marinated or plain. The chorizo is made from scratch using a secret family recipe; try it in tacos instead of ground beef-yum! The store is filled with Central American ingredients; beans, mole, dried peppers, unique spices…..this aisle smells so good. Much of the packaging is written in Spanish, many have their own characters affiliated with the product; a cute little bear adorns cookie and snack wrappers. Prepared foods are available for take-out or you can eat at one of the picnic tables in front of the store, they also carry items from Michigan’s own Calder Dairy including ice cream and the most incredibly delicious chocolate milk you will ever drink…….just sayin’.  I check my list before we check out to make sure I have everything; we’re good to go.

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Looking at all that good food has given us quite an appetite, Mexican Village is just down the street, sounds good doesn’t it? This is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Mexicantown, it definitely caters to area visitors. Inside, a beamed stucco ceiling, archways and wrought iron sconces and chandeliers are intended to put one in the mindset of Mexico; it’s lovely. The space is large, yet charming; murals and sizable paintings fill the walls, there are several dining areas in addition to banquet rooms. As we are led to our seat servers carry trays of chips and salsa to surrounding tables, the menu is vast, filled with mouth-watering selections. The best way to try a bit of everything is a combination plate; once our order is taken, we have to restrain ourselves so we don’t fill up on chips and salsa; not an easy task. Food arrives quickly, the village combination comes with 2 beef tacos; one flour, one corn, a chicken flauta, bean tostada and cheese enchilada. We also asked for a tamale, rice and beans. Everything is tasty; we both agree we like the cheese enchilada the best.

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There’s a neighborhood market right next door: Algo Especial Supermercado; we take a peek inside. There’s a little bit of everything tucked into the narrow space; souvenir-type items, trinkets, produce and tortillas greet us near the door, along with festive pinatas that hang from the ceiling. Up a couple of steps, a small area is host to CD’s and DVD’s by Mexican artists, lovely, authentic costumes hang from a rack, American and Mexican flags are side by side. Just a little further you’ll find the meat counter, household items and the noteworthy tamale counter; be sure and take a few home. We walk back to the front passing tons of loose spices and teas, many I have never seen before. It’s always a fun adventure when exploring another culture!

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Until recently, Detroit hadn’t distilled a drop of spirits since prohibition; next we are stopping in at the city’s newest vodka producer, Our/Detroit Partners Kate Bordine and Sara Aldridge have teamed up with Pernod Ricard Vodka, who supplies the recipe and distillery. The all-female-owned and operated end of the business is in charge of sales, marketing and most importantly production. This is global vodka made by local partners, using local ingredients, giving the spirit a unique taste from city to city. In Detroit, cocktails are created using products from local businesses such as Mc Clure’s, Mc Clary Bros. and Wolf Moon Mixers; it never ceases to amaze me the way in which the business community here supports one another!

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The building itself was formerly the Bagley Billiard Center, it sat vacant for a number of years before its current incarnation as distillery and tasting room. Fresh white paint and a cool mural by Ndubisi Okoye covering one side of the structure peak the curiosity of passersby; many peer in the front windows to see what’s going on inside. The decor is simple and elegant in black and white, art is the work of local artists. The tasting room has a chill vibe, shelves are filled with bottles of vodka and mixers, a well-placed window affords patrons a view of the working distillery. We sit at the counter, glancing at the menu, it doesn’t take long to decide, I’m having a vodka tonic with lime and Kris is having Summer in the City, a refreshing combination of vodka, lemonade, blueberry-nutmeg simple syrup and a splash of sparkling soda; it tastes even better than it sounds. The drink menu is seasonal, it will change quarterly; can’t wait to try out Autumn’s offerings!

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DETROIT: La Marche du Nain Rouge

10 Apr

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There is a tradition in Detroit that began over 300 years ago, it’s called La Marche du Nain Rouge. First, let me translate; La Nain Rouge is ‘The Red Dwarf’. This malicious spirit appears as a dwarf with glowing red eyes, rotting teeth, matted fur and contorted red features. Legend has it that the first sighting of Le Nain Rouge took place when the founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, took a stroll with his wife just outside Fort Pontchartrain’s walls. Le Nain confronted Cadillac shrieking at him, in turn Cadillac drove La Nain off with his cane; in retaliation La Nain cursed Cadillac. Soon bad things began to happen to Cadillac; he was indicted on charges of illegal trafficking, he was removed from power. Cadillac’s fortunes were never the same, eventually he died while still trying to establish his land claims in Detroit. On March 23, 1710 the citizens of Fort Pontchartrain banned together to drive out the evil spirit; they organized the first march beginning at St Anne’s church and ending by driving La Nain into the river. 

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The annual tradition was revived three years ago with a few modern twists. When we found out about the parade I couldn’t wait to go; I wasn’t sure what to expect, which made it even more fun! The activities kicked off in the parking lot of Traffic Jam & Snug; there was a large group of folks already assembled when we arrived, a sea of red clothing and accessories.  At 1:00 La Nain arrived in all his gruesomeness; deep red coloring and over-sized fangs, creature-like hands and claws, even his voice was evil. He ascended high above the crowd  in the bucket of a cherry picker, raising a banner that read “I’m Back”. He exclaimed his desire to rule Detroit and continue the curse, which was met with boo’s and shouts from the crowd. . The master of ceremonies declared the start of La Marche; The Detroit Party Marching Band led the procession toward Masonic Temple where the march would conclude. Revelers fell in behind the band, we stood still off to one side to take it all in. Historical Detroit figures were well represented; Father Gabriel Richard, Pontiac, Pingree and Cadillac himself among others. There were chariots made of bicycles and cardboard, the most impressive was the quadracycle complete with a fire-breathing torch.  It’s a carnival-like atmosphere and anything goes; people are decked out in wigs, masks, fringe and capes. Some characters are recognizable; we saw Big Boy, the Kales Building and Richard Nixon doing the Hula-Hoop! Creativity abounds, from knee-high fur boots and jester caps to alien costumes and stilts. Some participants march in groups;  “Mustaches Against La Nain” was well represented along with a consort of horse-head wearing individuals. The day was unusually warm for March 25, which made it all the more pleasant to be outdoors traversing the streets of the city. 

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At last we arrived at the steps of the Masonic Temple only to find La Nain at the top of the stairs; a banner declaring La Nain for Emergency Manager hung from the building. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the sight of it, La Nain had thought of everything…….What he didn’t count on was the spirit and unity of those gathered to drive La Nain from the city and rid Detroit of its woes. One by one, members of the crowd climbed to the top of the steps declaring their commitment to Detroit and the banishing of La Nain, until at last La Nain was gone. A Celebration ensued; music, dance and laughter filled Temple Street. The party was moved indoors via tunnel to the Fountain Ballroom, here the festivities continued. The Marching Band continued to play, food was available from Slows-to-Go along with a variety of adult beverages. The Fountain Ballroom is cool; a sunken dance floor with large decorative columns fill most of the space, the walls are adorned with decorative panels, a balcony of sorts surrounds three sides of the room. When we got inside the place was packed, we enjoyed the festivities for awhile but the lines for food and drink were long. Our stomachs were not that patient, so we headed elsewhere.

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In a normal Michigan March you would be hard pressed to find outdoor seating at a restaurant, but this was no normal Michigan winter. Kris recalled seeing patio seating at Los Galanes in Mexicantown, so that’s where we went. Located on Bagley at 23rd Street Armando Galan and his family (Los Galanes) have made the restaurant into a popular destination. Most people recognize the restaurant by the large, colorful mural painted on the back of the building. When we arrived we were glad to see an open table on the patio, you can’t sit indoors on a day as beautiful as this! The patio is quite lovely; dangling white lights hang from wrought iron arches, plants already filled the window boxes with spring color. Chips and salsa arrived immediately, we ate as we decided what to order for lunch. We find we enjoy the combination plates the best; a taco, enchilada, burrito and tostada, it’s nice to try several different things. We also ordered the Chiles Rellenos; poblano peppers breaded and filled with cheese, topped with a rancherito sauce, they were delicious!  It was another wonderful day in Detroit.

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Mexicantown, Southwest Detroit, Honey Bee, La Gloria & Camino Real

18 Apr


On Friday Kris and I headed downtown for the day. We were in the mood for some really good Mexican food, so there is only one destination, Southwest Detroit. There is no other neighborhood quite like southwest, brightly colored murals grace the walls of buildings, homeowners paint the fences surrounding their yards with cheerful scenes. People are always out and about, it is very active and has a vibrant feeling about it. In this part of town big american pick-ups and SUV’s wearing giant chrome rims are a common sight. Vehicles are often multi-colored either by custom paint jobs or the mismatched fenders and doors that adorn them. This is a great neighborhood for the adventurous to explore.

Driving down Vernor there is one restaurant after another, mercados  (markets) of all kinds line the sidewalks, as do panaderias (bakeries), and of course there are the Taco Trucks. We have eaten at a couple of them, just stand at the window, the menu is usually pretty basic; Tacos, quesadillas etc. with your choice of meat. Sometimes there is a fold out counter and a couple of stools where you can sit and enjoy your food, we usually just stand on the spot. This is simple mexican food that is quick, delicious and inexpensive!

Taqueria Camino Real

We had already decided where we were going to eat, Taqueria Camino Real, located on the corner of Central & Lafayette, for those of you with a GPS, here’s the address: 1100 Central, Detroit, 48209. We love this place! We have eaten here many times and the food is always good, most of the places in Mexicantown we find to be quite similiar, but here it is a little different. I’m sure each place has their own recipes for everything, and this one suits us. Here is our usual order: 1 Chorizo Taco, spicy and delicious, 1 llomo Tostada, the best llomo (spicy shredded pork) I have had anywhere, and the lunch cheese enchiladas, which are very moist and served with rice and beans. As soon as you are seated they bring the traditional chips and salsa, we always ask for a cup of any other salsa they have that day, sometimes they have 4 different ones. The verde seems to be a staple, and you never know what else they may have, they are all good. Pop is served in cans along with a nice big glass of ice. Looks good doesn’t it?

Inside Camino Real


The interior is quite charming and the waitresses very nice.  Prices are reasonable, we got all this for $11.00

Next up Honeybee Market, one of my very favorite stores to shop in. As you walk in the door you are greeted by mariachi music playing in the background, bright colors and wonderful scents in the air.  Immediately you are face to face with samples of their own homemade chips, salsa, and one of the best guacamole’s I have ever had. Do partake, you won’t be disappointed. Be sure and check out the produce section;  cactus, yucca, tomatillos, and a huge variety of peppers are available, everything looks so fresh and colorful. Need tortillas? This is the place; Crunchy, soft, corn or flour, tacos or tostadas, they’ve got them. We usually walk up and down each aisle, it’s fun to see all of the different labels and types of foods, I cannot get out of there without a tub of guacamole, chips, and something new to try. Ever had a rice pudding ice cream bar?  Look in the  cooler by the registers, you want Arroz con leche, mmmmm, so good.

Produce Section

Honeybee Market



Notice the Pinatas on the shelf


One more stop before coffee:
La Gloria Bakery located on Bagley about a half mile west of Honeybee Market is filled with sweet delights. Walk in the door, grab yourself a tray, a pair of tongs and start choosing, that’s no easy task. Cabinet after cabinet is filled with delicious Mexican baked goods, the scent of fresh deep fried churros fills the air, making you want one of everything, with these prices you may consider it.  The last stop for the afternoon was Cafe con leche, a wonderful coffee shop on Vernor across from Clark Park. This is a charming neighborhood hang out where you can get Spanish hot chocolate so thick you may be tempted to eat it with a spoon! More on this spot next time……                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Counter at La Gloria

La Gloria Bakery on Bagley