Mezcal Mexican Bar and Kitchen, the casual taqueria and agave-centered bar that opened last year in Ferndale, has expanded with a second location on June 28, bringing with it a glimpse of what Mexican fine dining could look like in Detroit.
Co-owners are Guanajuato natives Sandra Haro, a social worker by training and brother Jose Granados, an accountant, have transformed the space at 51 West Forest (formerly Savant) into an modern, sit-down establishment punctuated by vibrant murals of alebrijes painted by 2023 Kresge artist Elton Monroy Duran, talavera tiles in an intricate blue and white pattern, weekly live mariachi performances, and a food and drink menu that showcases the many regional specialties of Mexican cuisine.
“I come [to Midtown] often to a lot of really nice restaurants like Selden [Standard], SheWolf, Oak & Reel, but I don’t see any authentic Mexican besides Mexicantown,” Granados told Eater in May, just before the Detroit location opened to the public.
To be clear, Mexicantown isn’t the only part of town to find a good taco. Casual spots like El Taco Veloz, Dos Locos Tacos, Jose’s Tacos, and a smattering of lonchera trucks that make stops in the city for special events have all enjoyed a fanbase for years. Regionally-based chains like Bakersfield and Condado Tacos — both with locations in Midtown — offer playful, if not Americanized options for queso dips and guac. Coming soon, Shell Shock’d Tacos, a Black-owned venture that made a splash during the pandemic for its stoner-friendly popup menu, is nearing the opening of its first permanent physical location on West Canfield. The food also shows up outside of Detroit city limits in communities in Downriver, Pontiac, and elsewhere in the suburbs.
As far as chef-driven Mexican goes in metro Detroit, the options are limited. In Dearborn, M Cantina bills itself as a “nuevo Latino” destination with unique-to-Detroit dishes like tlayudas, duck carnitas tacos, and barbacoa de chivo. Meanwhile in Southwest, El Barzón’s beloved Mexican-Italian menu continues to attract droves of fans for specialties like chile en nogada, mole poblano, and freshly-made pasta. Taqueros like Nancy Diaz-Lopez and her husband Ramon Luis “Wicho” Diaz, the proprietors of the fleet of El Parian taco trucks and several restaurants, have more recently added ticketed tasting-menu events to add a touch of elegance to the barrio.
At Mezcal, guests can expect many of the menu items that are already hits at the Ferndale location, including its tacobirria and quesabirria (made with a flour tortilla), California-inspired burritos, and esquites. With the additional square footage available in Midtown, the kitchen can expand upon its offerings and recreate some of the specialities inspired by the brother and sister’s many trips back to their home country. Chef Jaime Flores from Mexico City, who previously worked at a Cheesecake Factory and helped to open other restaurants in Texas, has been brought on to develop a menu that leans further into capturing the essence of the country’s geographic and cultural nuances, but with some personal touches. Examples include a sopa de lima typical of Mexico’s northeastern Yucatán Peninsula traditionally made with a combination of protein like chicken, turkey, beef, or pork, lime juice, and strips of crispy tortillas; torres de mariscos precisely constructed with succulent shrimp, octopus, fish, avocado, and citrus juice inspired by the seafood offerings of coastal regions like Sinaloa; dumplings filled with Michoacán-style carnitas; and crispy chicharrones de ribeye atop guacamole. With Flores’s background in pastries, the restaurant also features a variety of desserts like house-made ice creams in flavors like avocado or sweet corn, tres leches cake with bits of pretzel, and a pan de elote topped with house-made whip cream, mazapan crumble, and caramel popcorn.
Of course, agave-based spirits have a big presence at Mezcal, which refers to the distilled alcoholic beverage produced mostly in Oaxaca made from 30-plus types of agave. Aficionados can splurge on flights of mezcal — many of which are sourced from smaller, craft distillers — margaritas, piña coladas, and Moscow mules made with mezcal; and the Instagram-worthy La Mezcla Perfecta — a giant cantarito that serves four and that uses a full bottle of tequila, grapefruit, lemon, orange juice and soda.
“We do traditional Mexican with a little bit of a twist of cultures as well,” says Haro.
Mezcal is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.