Welcome to Food Crawls, a series in which Eater Detroit staffers guide you (virtually) on various food crawls in the metro Detroit area. When we go out, we often find ourselves wanting to try more than one restaurant or bar at a time. On some occasions we seek out a specific dish or drink, while on others we might explore a style of cuisine special to a neighborhood. Email us if there’s a particular theme, specific dish or drink, or neighborhood you’d like to see covered in a future installment.
Southwest Detroit is often referred as Mexicantown — a small section of a sprawling region of the city. While the moniker isn’t entirely inaccurate, it doesn’t quite sum up the variety of cuisines in the area that’s considered a hub for Detroit’s Latin American community. Visitors to Southwest Detroit are probably familiar with the classics from grilled chicken and tacos destination Taqueria El Rey to the fine-dining Mexican and Italian offerings at El Barzon, but the area is also home to great pupuserias, arepa restaurants, tamale shops, eclectic pizzerias, and festive tiki bars.
On a recent Thursday, the Eater team threw on their winter coats and took a stroll down a section of Southwest’s main artery West Vernor Highway to feast on Honduran food, Vietnamese food, Mexican street food — and not one taco.
Stats from this food crawl:
Number of stops: 8
Number of additional spots we wanted to visit but were too full: At least 3
Distance: 0.7 miles
Tacos consumed: 0
Number of hours spent on food crawl: 4.5
Tortas at Torta Express
1757 24th St., Detroit
This food truck parked near Giovanna’s Lounge is famous for its $1 Taco Tuesdays, but tortas dominate the menu here with no fewer than 12 options. Try the Tortas Express: Sandwiched between layers of perfectly toasted bread are layers of hot dogs, chorizo, ham, and sausage topped with tomato, onions, cabbage, mayonnaise, beans, and Oaxaca cheese. The pickled jalapenos on the side bring spiciness and acidity that ties it all together.
Dorielotes at Mangonadas Del Barrio
4029 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
Southwest Detroit’s snack shop mini-chain Mangonadas del Barrio serves some of Mexico’s most popular street foods alongside classic ice cream sundaes. Customers can try several varieties of the eponymous spicy-sweet frozen mangonadas dessert or go for something more savory like Dorilocos. On this crawl, we went for th Dorielotes: a cut open bag of nacho cheese Doritos mixed with corn, cheese, and spices. The crunch of the chips, the saltiness of the cheese, and the sweetness make for an ideal snack food.
Botanas at Armando’s
4242 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
This Mexican-American establishment has long been a staple among late-night crowds. The restaurant happens to offers some excellent appetizers including queso flameado — melty muenster cheese, Spanish sauce, and chorizo set ablaze tableside. Customers would also be missing out if they didn’t try the botana, a pile of corn chips topped with beans, chorizo, Muenster cheese, lettuce, sliced tomato, onion, and avocado, green pepper, onion, and jalapenos that’s more popular than nachos in Southwest Detroit. Pair everything with a pitcher of margaritas.
Pastries at Mexicantown Bakery
4300 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
This family-run bakery has been a neighborhood staple for more than 20 years. The charming corner shop boasting bakery cases teeming with baked goods such as cinnamon sugar Mexican sweet breads, churros, chocolate-filled pastries, and cakes. Customers swear by the tres leches cake available in pina colada, cappuccino, chocolate, strawberry, and caramelo. Grab some tongs and fill up a plastic tray with goodies for the road.
Fruity paletas at La Michoacana
4336 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
Already full from several hours of eating, roll into this Mexican ice cream and snack shop for a frozen palate cleanser. La Michoacana offers a rainbow of small paletas in its freezers, which are perfect for getting a dessert fix in less than three bites. The individually wrapped popsicles come in flavors such as lime, cantaloupe, strawberry, and chocolate-dipped.
Bun La Lot at Flowers of Vietnam
4430 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
Flowers of Vietnam has its staples such as the caramel fried chicken wings and whole fried fish, but don’t sleep on the rest of the menu. Fragrant and flavorful beef rolls called bun la lot are served on bamboo skewers with a bowl of nuoc cham on the side for dipping.
Walk the Plank at Mutiny Bar
4654 Vernor Hwy, Detroit
This fun tiki bar where the playlist includes Shaggy and Bonnie Raitt has all the classic rum drinks such as the Painkiller and Scorpion Bowl as well as slushies such as the fiery Walk the Plank: poblano infused Jim Beam bourbon, raspberry, and grapefruit soda.
Pupusas at Antojitos El Catracho
4627 Vernor Hwy., Detroit
This laid back Honduran diner is located just across the street from Mutiny Bar and serves a range of filling comfort foods from fried baleadas (stuffed flour tortillas) to pork tamales to crispy fried yucca. Don’t overlook the pupusas — a typical Salvadoran dish, that’s also popular in neighboring Honduras. Try it with the loroco flower, a green vegetable similar to broccoli but more flavorful.
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