From pupusas to empanadas and all the tacos in between, we’ve got the best authentic eateries to visit during Hispanic Heritage Month.
MICHIGAN—Michigan’s Kent County has experienced a population surge in the last decade. In Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Kentwood, and Byron Township, the Hispanic population has grown impressively, and the restaurant scene has grown to accommodate that population. All of this growth translates to more authentic options for everyone during National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15-Oct. 15, and year-round.
West Michiganders are already known for their love of the wet burrito, a Tex-Mex culinary creation typically attributed to Grand Rapids’ Beltline Bar. But there’s more to the region’s Hispanic cuisine than a burrito swimming in sauce and cheese.
The terms Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably, but Hispanic specifically refers to Spanish-speaking cultures. Some Latin American countries, like Brazil, primarily speak other languages like Portuguese. Some Hispanic countries, like Spain, are not located in Latin America. Still, there is often significant overlap, with many individual countries counting as both.
Mexican food is the most recognizable and accessible form of Hispanic cuisine in the US. But there are many other non-Mexican Hispanic foods that you may or may not have tried yourself, including Spanish tapas, Salvadorian pupusas, Peruvian ceviche, and empanadas, which date back to Medieval Iberia and today have many regional variations.
Though the Mexican variations of empanadas—using corn-based masa—are most frequently seen in American eateries, other variations include the Puerto Rican empanadillas or pastelillos, which feature a flaky pastry-like crust; or the Colombian variation, which uses cornmeal (masarepa).
Ready to snag some tacos and tempt your taste buds with new horizons? We’ve assembled a list of our favorite West Michigan restaurants with Hispanic owners and authentic Hispanic cuisine.
City Built Brewing Company
820 Monroe Ave. NW STE 155, Grand Rapids
Hispanic Cuisine: Puerto Rican
Grand Rapids might be known as Beer City, USA, but there’s only one brewery in the entire city that is Hispanic-owned. That’s City Built Brewing Company, a brewery that former teacher Edwin Collazo opened in downtown Grand Rapids in 2017. Collazo’s parents are originally from Puerto Rico, an inspiration that formed the culinary foundation of City Built’s menu. Collazo has been an upstanding member of the Hispanic community, serving on the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and participating in events like the Latino Youth Conference.
What’s On the Menu: Though City Built Brewing Company is one of Grand Rapids’ most beloved taco joints, there is also plenty of Puerto Rican inspiration on the menu. They serve up tostones, aka patacones—crisp, flattened plantains. They also serve the classic Puerto Rican rice, or arroz con gandules; and yuca fries, aka cassava fries, made from deep-fried cassava, a popular root vegetable in several Latin American countries. Make sure to also try City Built’s popular Mexican Lager, Alemania.
Lindo Mexico Restaurante Mexicano
1742 28th St. SW, Wyoming
Hispanic Cuisine: Mexican
Lindo Mexico Restaurante is proudly woman-owned, and owner Gricelda Mata wants to make sure you know it. The founder and owner of Lindo Mexico since 2000, Mata learned cooking from her family in Michoacan, Mexico. She was often challenged by the fact that she was the only girl in the family and grew to have a chip on her shoulder, wanting to show that women could be success-driven.
Mata and her brother, head chef Chris Campos, infused their father’s cooking into the Grand Rapids scene. Appreciation of her staff and their well-being is a driving goal of Mata’s, as she desires to improve the lives of anyone she encounters. One point of pride for the longtime cook is the hand-picked art that adorns the walls of the restaurant, including the Mexican tiles on the wooden tables. The artwork depicts Mexican icons, pastimes, and symbols.
What’s On The Menu: Lindo Mexico Restaurante offers your expected Mexican fare with a few specific favorites. The unique margaritas are by far one of the bestsellers, using authentic flavors like mango, tamarind, and prickly pear cactus. Their Taco & Cerveza Tuesday includes a taco of the day, with varieties not offered on the normal menu. The enchiladas are also one of the bigger draws. For a proper go at those, try the enchiladas Suizas, with three corn tortillas rolled in your choice of meat and topped with either mild, medium, or spicy sauce.
Pochis Colombian Cafe
44 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Hispanic Cuisine: Colombian
Hispanic entrepreneur and Colombian immigrant Paola Carson started monetizing her hobby in 2019, making baked goods and chocolate-covered strawberries with her artisanal dessert business, Pochis Sweet Designs. Carson’s products and Colombian coffee were a hit and her products started flying off shelves at Meijer stores and Latin supermarkets. As of 2023, she now has a brick-and-mortar location in Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids Downtown Developmental Authority awarded Carson more than $50,000 in two grants, which helped her open a restaurant to go along with her popular grocery products. Pochis Colombian Cafe and Pochis Sweet Designs have now come together as Grand Rapids’ first ever Colombian cafe and restaurant.
Paola Carson also organized Grand Rapids’ first-ever Colombian Independence Day festival, which was held on July 22 of this year.
What’s On The Menu: The menu features a variety of native Colombian cuisine. One of the biggest features is the Colombian-style empanadas, meat-filled turnovers made with yellow corn dough. They also serve Colombian arepas, corn cakes that are sometimes also called Colombian pancakes. The arepas are similar to flatbreads served with different varieties of proteins and cheeses. What truly can’t be beat are the coffee creations—the same coffee that made Carson famous at 258 Meijer stores. The coffee is available in traditional brewed coffee, lattes, cappuccino, espresso, and more.
El Granjero Mexican Grill
950 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
Hispanic Cuisine: Mexican
El Granjero Mexican Grill is a long-term labor of love by mother-daughter duo Mercedes Lopez-Duran and Paola Mendivil. Lopez-Duran is an immigrant from Mexico City who worked as a server at El Granjero when it was known as Tacos El Ganadero. She bought the whole company and renamed it in 2007, eventually bringing her daughter into the family business. Paola Mendivil is active in the Grand Rapids community, helping other small local businesses get their start through the nonprofit Grow, formerly Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women. El Granjero translates to “The Farmer,” a name inspired by the pair’s desire to use nothing but farm-fresh ingredients on the menu.
What’s On The Menu: Though El Granjero serves up traditional authentic Mexican fare, their signature dish and house specialty is the el molcajete. This is a sharable dish of skirt steak, chicken, chorizo, grilled cactus, and grilled queso fresco served with bean soup, avocado, and grilled green onions. Corn or flour tortillas are included so patrons can build their own tacos. The molcajete is also available with shrimp or carnitas (pork). Their house-made salsa is also quite popular.
677 W. Laketon Ave., Muskegon
Hispanic Cuisine: Mexican
In the coastal town of Muskegon, you can find El Tapatio, the restaurant that MLive named Michigan’s Best Mexican Restaurant in 2018. The homemade corn masa tortillas made onsite daily was one of the MLive reviewers’ tipping points. Three siblings—Jorge, Rosanna, and Jose Hernandez—are the owners of El Tapatio, taking culinary inspiration from their hometown of Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico.
The three siblings often had cooking contests as children, which Rosanna typically won. The trio opened El Tapatio in 2004, inspired to bring Jalisco cuisine like cazuela (shredded pork) to Muskegon. Also inspired by their upbringing, the familial atmosphere in this family-owned business is palpable to locals and tourists alike.
What’s On The Menu: The menu offers the expected Mexican fare, including huge burritos that can be ordered “wet,” the Michigan regional specialty. Tacos come with a choice of proteins including al pastor, cazuela, carnitas, and tapatio (which means authentic). Tacos can also be ordered with authentic Mexican toppings of cilantro and onion; pico de gallo style with tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno; or American style with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Among the rest of the fare, some of the more popular options are the tamales and tortas.
Pupuseria El Salvador
4639 Division Ave. SW, Wyoming
Hispanic Cuisine: Salvadoran
When El Salvador native Dina Suarez arrived in Grand Rapids, she was dismayed to see no sign of Salvadoran culture in Grand Rapids. So, she decided to create it. She opened Pupuseria El Salvador in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming in 2005, where she started serving up a trademark Latin American dish: pupusas. Her creative innovation with pupusa fillings has made Pupuseria El Salvador into one of Grand Rapids’ most beloved hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
What’s On The Menu: As its signature and eponymous dish, the pupusas are obviously the best choice. Suarez uses ingredients such as the loroco flower, a climbing vine widespread in El Salvador; and chipilín leaves, a leafy vegetable also from El Salvador. Some pupusas include cactus, which can be found in Mexican cuisine. Other fillings include cheese, beans, jalapeno peppers, spinach, steak, chicken, shrimp, pork, ham, and more. You’ll also find dishes made of fried plantains, fried yuca root, tamales, and traditional Mexican fare.
305 N. Beacon Blvd., Grand Haven
Hispanic Cuisine: Mexican
The Orduno family had long ago gotten into the habit of making a lot of food for their family reunions. Eventually, that led to serving up tacos at Arturo’s Tacos, which they’ve been doing in the beachfront Lake Michigan town of Grand Haven since 2011. The namesake of the restaurant, Art Orduno, uses recipes passed down to his mother from his grandmother. Having arrived in Grand Haven after working for a Chicago catering business, he sold food at a variety of state festivals, but kept getting asked where his restaurant was. He eventually decided to open that restaurant just to ensure he had an answer to the question. If that many people wanted to know, there must be a solid customer base, right? His philosophy is to treat everyone who comes through the door like family, and the Muskegon area can’t get enough.
What’s On The Menu: Arturo’s has a variety of Mexican fare, but its most popular options are the tacos. There are five primary types of meat for the tacos: carne asada (steak), pollo (chicken), picadillo (ground beef), al pastor (marinated pork), and chorizo (Mexican sausage). All the tacos can be served authentic Mexican style with onion and cilantro or American style with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. The meat options are also available in burritos, quesadillas, tostadas, enchiladas, tortas, sopes, and nachos.
RIO Peruvian and Mexican Cuisine
69 28th St. SW, Kentwood
Hispanic Cuisine: Peruvian
This restaurant might be brand new to the Grand Rapids restaurant scene, but its owners are anything but. Andy Rosario and wife Elizabeth Reyes-Rosario have already owned and operated MAYA in the Rogers Plaza Town Center. Recently, Rosario bought the former Chinatown restaurant and decided to transform it into something else entirely. RIO Peruvian and Mexican Cuisine has two dining rooms, one of which is for Hibachi-style lunch dishes, featuring an innovative new creation: Taconyaki, the art of cooking tacos in front of patrons.
What’s On The Menu: Though Peruvian cuisine is vast, RIO’s menu has tons of authentic flavors and ingredients. One of RIO’s most recognizable offerings is ceviche, a Peruvian dish consisting of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus and seasonings. Special grilled meats include the churrasco, which is a marinated skirt steak, lamb shank, and roasted chicken. The seafood menu includes both filets and fish served whole.
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