La Posada dishes out home-style Mexican food in Southwest Detroit 

click to enlarge Carne en su jugo, or meat in its juice.

Tom Perkins

Carne en su jugo, or meat in its juice.

Many diners have been venturing beyond the Bagley Street strip of tourist-oriented Mexicantown restaurants, searching deeper into the neighborhood for food as it's cooked in Mexico (most likely Jalisco). Comida casera — home-style food — as Manuel Romo, owner of La Posada, said the first time I called.

Among the many options in Southwest Detroit, I've developed a warm feeling for La Posada, on Springwells near Vernor. It's actually a half-dozen tables in the back of a grocery store, but the owners have made a real effort to make it inviting. Wooden chairs and tables are embellished with old-timey photos of Mexican campesinos and guerrilleros.

There once was a photo of Elvis on one white wall, but it was taken down as we watched. The next time we went, a Saturday evening, that wall was being painted bright orange. Romo explained that he'd read on the Internet that bright colors make customers eat more, and that orange was the best.

It would be challenging to eat more at La Posada, however, as the servings are large enough to defy any normal human's capacity. You could eat more in the store and take home less, I suppose.

I think one reason I like La Posada is the bustle of neighborhood life going on around you. Painting the walls as you watch, for example. In one spot people are sending money home to Mexico, while in a different corner candles are burning before Jesus and the Virgin of Guadalupe. A simple typed sign reads in Spanish, "Success in life is not always to win but rather never to give up."

After tequila, Jalisco is perhaps best known for its pozole, the pork, hominy, and chile soup, and La Posada's friendly red version is just the right hotness for this gringa's taste. I love the mouth-feel of the hominy. It comes of course with chopped onion, radish, and lettuce on the side to add as you please, plus four crisp tortillas, limes, and jalapeños, so the resulting mixture is pretty thick. Don't omit the lime juice; although the pozole's flavor is already bright, the citrus adds another layer of zest.

All the dinners offered are well worth trying. Their titles are in Spanish, but the descriptions are in English. I liked carne en su jugo (meat in its juice), which is cut-up steak with lots of an excellent tomatillo-based green sauce stewed with bacon, jalapeños, onions, garlic, and cilantro. Pork ribs, cut up but with bones, come in that same mouth-watering sauce. Barbacoa (translated as "traditional Mexican steak stew") is not stew-like but rather a big mound of shredded beef, sloppy Joe-style, with more green sauce on the side.

Perhaps the largest dish of all, overflowing its oval platter, is parrillada, an array of chicken breast, short ribs, steak, and chorizo. The very thin, chewy Mexican steak, which at La Posada comes from chuck roast, is an acquired taste for many Americans. The flavor is there, but you have to work for it. The beef rib is pretty fibrous too, but there's enough fat there to make it work. I liked best the deep red chorizo, with pork and chile flavors shining in perfect proportions.

Other dinners are chile rellenos, various preparations of steak, chicken smothered in mozzarella, tongue in green salsa, beef or chicken fajitas, shrimp diabla, two beef soups, and the beloved milanesa — deep-fried breaded steak.

All come with rice and refried beans, and I'm sorry to report that no frijoles enteros (whole beans) are available, which I prefer to refried beans, with their mud-like consistency and bland flavor.

You will do just as well for breakfast at La Posada as at lunch or dinner. A simple but picante huevos a la mexicana is gorgeous with the colors of the Mexican flag (jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes), and the chorizo shines again when mixed with eggs and potatoes, a less spicy dish. Breakfasts come with six thick corn tortillas.

And you should try the fresh-squeezed juices. I especially liked "verde" — cucumbers, green apples, and celery, and you can taste all three. Orange juice is pulpy with just a hint of bittersweet. Jamaica, made from dried hibiscus, is strong and reminiscent of cranberries, but I was not a fan of the horchata, usually a favorite — it was too sweet, with too much vanilla for my taste. Still, the large size is 32 oz for $2.99. If you end up going for Mexican pop, try the mandarin Jarritos.

Dessert can be a licuado — fruit blended with milk — and they keep Mexican Choco Milk flavoring on hand, too, for the homesick who are missing their childhoods. Though it was thin, I found the foamy licuado de platano fresh and perfect. Or you can buy a tub of Jalisco-made cajeta on your way out, the fabulous boiled milk spread that's similar to dulce de leche, and just eat it by the spoonful. There are two versions, one with tequila.

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