Little Mexico Hair Disclaimer
In regards to the hair we found, we made sure that it was a hair. At first we thought it could have been a corn husk, but there was no husk surrounding the tamale. Upon closer inspection, it was definitely a hair that had been saturated with sauce.
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When it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine, look no further than Bridge Street. Little Mexico Cafe, El Granjero and Maggie’s Kitchen are all located on this street and compete for customers. Each of these restaurants claim to serve traditional Mexican cuisine, which has been compared side by side for this tasting experiment.
Similar dishes are ordered: an enchilada from each restaurant, one or more tacos from each, tamales from Little Mexico and El Granjero as well as steak and pork elements from El Granjero and Maggie’s Kitchen.
El Granjero (950 Bridge Street NW)
El Granjero has a deli atmosphere and seats no more than about 40 people. The Mexican Platter ordered includes a chile relleno, a skirt steak taco, a cheese enchilada, a tamale, beans and rice. A spicy pork quesadilla was also ordered.
The beef in the steak taco is appropriately seasoned but was too charred, leaving some pieces hard and chewy. Two corn tortillas are used as the wrap and handful of fresh cilantro tops the taco, which is easily the most visually appealing item of all three restaurants.
The cheese enchilada comes with a sufficient amount of red sauce that has been soaked up by the corn tortilla, giving the enchilada a nice subtle tomato flavor. Inside the tortilla, a mild but delicious queso blanco completes the dish. On the chile relleno, a crisp and light batter accents the spicy and sweet flavor of the poblano pepper, although next time a little more queso would be nice, por favor.
El Granjero’s tamale is served in a traditional corn husk. The corn masa has a smooth consistency and the meat filling has a bite to it, elevating the flavor of this delicious tamale.
The spicy pork quesadilla is filled with a sweet and spicy pineapple-marinated pork, with the marinade also serving as the sauce in the dish. Notes of roasted chipotle leak through the flour tortilla, giving a piquancy to the otherwise bland entre. The large flour tortilla holds together well despite the juicy contents, which don’t need the help of additional sauce.
Maggie’s Kitchen (636 Bridge Street NW)
Maggie’s Kitchen has a small cafe feel with a bright color scheme, huge painted murals and plenty of four person tables. From here, four different tacos and two enchiladas were ordered.
Each of the two enchiladas has slightly less red sauce than preferred, however, what sauce is present had notes of fresh tomato. The chicken enchilada is stuffed with chunks of breast meat and was dry. The flavor of the chicken trumps any other chicken entree examined, but the lack of sauce deducted from the dish. The cheese enchilada also lacks sauce, as they’re served side by side, but the cheese has a delicious smoky flavor and was melted to perfection.
Two corn tortillas wrap each of the tacos and are served with a side of chopped onions, sour cream, and green and red sauce. The sauce offered by Maggie’s Kitchen by far has the most flavor and the green sauce is quite spicy. By giving the customer the choice on how to sauce their taco, they allow every person to customize their own taco.
The Fajitas De Res, a skirt steak taco, has high quality, juicy and tender cooked meat. The beef inside the ground beef taco has a balance of flavors with cumin present. Both of these tacos are topped with fresh lettuce, diced tomato and shredded colby cheese.
The menu has two different pork taco options: Puerco En Salsa Roja and Puerco En Salsa Verde. The red sauce is slightly hotter while the green sauce has more of a citrus flavor. The large cubes of pork in each taco are tender and juicy, mingling well with the two different sauces. Of all the dishes from any restaurant, the pork in these tacos was by far the best cooked and most flavorful meat.
Little Mexico Cafe (401 Stocking Avenue NW)
From the moment you walk through the hefty wooden front doors, the Aztec ambiance of Little Mexico is unrelenting, with half naked Aztec men painted all over the walls. Ordered from this establishment was a combination plate featuring a beef taco, a chile relleno, a chicken enchilada, beans and rice. A tamale was also ordered.
The taco consisted solely of finely ground meat that resembles a chili more than anything else. It is underseasoned and doesn’t seem to be prepared in house. Because of the consistency of the meat, the undercooked flour tortilla is soggy and falls apart when picked up.
The enchilada is also a disappointment. Inside the enchilada, there is dry, shredded chicken that has no seasoning on it. There is an unpleasant, overpowering chicken flavor to this meat that resembles canned tuna. With a slightly tart, sour flavor, the sauce adds an unappetizing topping to a poor tasting enchilada.
The chile relleno is easily the highlight of Little Mexico’s food. There is enough queso fresco inside the spicy and flavorful poblano pepper, but it isn’t as melty as it should be. Overall the flavors work well in this dish, contrasting everything else in this platter which tastes horribly bland.
At first glance, the tamale looks like a wet burrito, covered in red sauce and cheese. Traditionally, tamales are a corn-based masa dough, stuffed with various things and wrapped in a corn husk with no sauce on it. As the first scoop of the red sauce is about to be tasted, a hair saturated with sauce is revealed at the bottom of the container.
Not only is this disgusting, but it is concerning. If the hair isn’t from the take out container to begin with, then it came from whatever pot they cook their sauce in. Having the hair present in this “wet” tamale means that further tasting of the dish won’t be required, and neither will a return trip to Little Mexico Cafe.
With Little Mexico Cafe clearly out of the picture, the choice is between El Granjero and Maggie’s Kitchen. The decision depends on what you’re in the mood for. If you want a perfectly crafted, hearty and delicious taco or enchilada, head over to Maggie’s Kitchen. If you want a flavorful and spicy tamale, chile relleno or quesadilla, El Granjero is the place go. Whichever of these two great Mexican restaurants you choose, you won’t be wrong.
Graduate of GVSU, having studied both professional and creative writing. I like to absorb all kinds of music and writing, and will give anything that crosses my path it's fair shake. I also dabble in photography, videography, as well as punnography. Someone once told me I had a bad memory, but I couldn't remember which one.
Reports on: Music, Food, Art