Classic fajitas included on Taqueria Nuestra Familia's extensive menu. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Taqueria Nuestra Familia is a colorful surprise waiting to be discovered.
Tucked into a neighborhood miles west of the near-downtown comfort zone provided by Mexicantown and its array of cantinas, itís a haven of fresh, well-prepared fare. Spanish wafts through the air, but the staff seems equally happy with those whose expertise in the language ended with Spanish 101.
In two recent visits, I didnít encounter anyone less than cheerful and accommodating. And the price structure is enough to warm the heart. Itís possible to have a very satisfying meal for $10 or even less.
The big menu, complete with photos of many of the dishes, offers an extensive list starting with breakfast choices like chorizo with eggs ó and the breakfast dishes may be ordered at any time of day ó and proceeds through burritos, flautas, chimichangas, fajitas, several seafood dishes and, notably, street-style tacos.
Itís hard to get past the tacos, they are so appealing. They come in 11 varieties, from the expected carnitas (fried pork), al pastor (marinated beef) and carne asada (grilled steak) to lomo (shredded pork loin), steamed beef tripe, beef heart and beef tongue, all served on soft corn tortillas, topped with just finely chopped onion and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Cheese is certainly not needed but can be added by request.
Certainly, there are many more well-prepared dishes, from the soups such as caldo de res, caldo de pollo, pozole and menudo to the red or green enchiladas filled with ham and cheese or ground beef. An interesting twist on the taco theme is gorditas ó stuffed corn cakes that may be had with all the same meat choices as the tacos and more. The sturdy cakes, made with masa harina, are crisp on the outside and tender within, and they are more substantial than tacos.
Each meal begins when a plate of freshly sliced cucumbers, radishes and wedges of lime comes quickly to the table, along with tortilla chips and three salsas in miniature molcajete clay pots. The salsas are mild, medium-spicy and the third is a soothing guacamole dip. Those who want something spicier will be brought a fourth salsa, definitely on the fiery side. The fresh vegetables are a good counterpoint to the crisp chips.
Big groups will find this a very welcoming place. The other day, a table of at least 12 seated in the back dining room, where there are big, communal-style tables, finished their lunch and were asked by the waitress if they wanted separate checks. Happily, they didnít, but she seemed quite willing to do it. Thatís surely a rarity, but typical of the service here.
The front dining room is done up with folk art that includes the tables and chairs themselves, laminated in bright colors with motifs of tropical birds and flowers. Colorful is a word that seems coined for this place.
The Canchola family ó the familia of the title ó can be justifiably proud of their appealing Mexican restaurant.
Taqueria Nuestra Familia
7620 W. Vernor at Central, Detroit
Call: (313) 842-5668
Rating: 3 stars (out of four)
Hours: 8 a.m.-11 a.m. Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sun.
Prices: Breakfast dishes $4.50-$7.50, lunch specials $4.95-$6.50, tacos $1.25, tortas $5, dinners including rice, beans and tortillas $8-$10.50
Credit cards: MC, Visa and Discover
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderately high
Parking: Large attached lot
Food and beverage calendar
Monthly Wine Tasting at MotorCity Wine: A relaxed tasting where you set the pace. Choose from at least 18 wines, plus cheese, charcuterie and antipasti. 6-8:30 p.m. Sat. $25. 1949 Michigan, Detroit. (313) 483-7283.
New Yearís Eve Beer Dinner at Clubhouse BFD: A five-course dinner paired with Unibroue beers, plus appetizers, games, other beer and Krispy Kreme sliders at midnight. 7 p.m. Tues. $100. 2265 Crooks, Rochester. (248) 289-6093.
Motor City Brew Tours Michigan Brewery Bus Tour in Royal Oak: Meet in Royal Oak and travel to Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, Grand River Brewery in Jackson and Chelsea Alehouse in Chelsea. 8:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Jan. 11. $75. Meet at 514 S. Lafayette, Royal Oak. (248) 850-2563 or www.motorcitybrewtours.com.
Pairing the Mitten at Fox Theatre: Sample wines from Michigan companies like St. Julian, Sandhill Crane, Black Star Farms and enjoy food made by the chefs from Olympia Entertainment and Motor City Casino Hotel. 6 p.m. Jan. 15. $95. 2211 Woodward, Detroit. (800) 745-3000.
Craft Beerfest at Royal Oak Music Theatre: VIP ticket holders may enter one hour earlier have access to special beers from 6-8 p.m. 7 p.m. Jan. 25. $40 advance, $45 at the door, $60 advance, $65 VIP at the door, $5 designated drivers. 318 W. Fourth, Royal Oak. (248) 399-2980.