Many of southwest Detroit’s Mexican restaurants are clustered along Vernor and Bagley streets. Mi Lindo San Blas has its own little corner, away from the others by several blocks at the intersection of Livernois and Vernor.
It also departs from the others in another way, offering a menu on which the foundation is seafood, from fish tacos to heaping platters of crab legs, octopus, prawns and scallops — and lots and lots of shrimp. The colorful plates are matched by the eye-popping décor that includes floors and walls painted ocean blue and emblazoned with cartoon sea creatures — and at least one mermaid — and high-backed chairs with cushions with a pattern of bright red lobsters, palm trees and fish.
If you didn’t know what the specialty of the house was, it wouldn’t take long to figure it out after stepping into the spacious dining room with a rustic wooden bar at the far end. Obviously, this is not some little grass-roots production. It is one of 18 restaurants proprietor Arnulfo Ramirez is involved with, but it is the only one of its kind. Ramirez owns the Los Tres Amigos restaurants in Howell, Jackson and Lansing, and just to keep things interesting, he is also involved in an Irish pub in East Lansing.
Mi Lindo San Blas (my beautiful San Blas, his tribute to his birthplace in Mexico’s seaside Nayarit region) opened in October and has been gradually drawing attention, especially on weekend nights when live music is added and tables are sometimes pushed back to create a dance floor.
Although seafood is the main event, the menu also includes the basic dishes a Mexican restaurant is expected to have — guacamole and chips, tostados, quesadillas and burritos, and the plates are generously garnished with rice and beans and other trimmings.
These dishes are much less expensive than the seafood specialties, which are not prepared in a specific way, but are offered in a variety of styles and with an array of sauces, from the hot Diabla to butter and garlic, tomato and chipotle, to be chosen by the individual diner. Nayarit style is whole fish, fried and served with the house sauce.
All the seafood dishes are colorfully and generously garnished with slices of fresh fruit and avocado or sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Shrimp, with or without shells, and steamed or marinated in lime juice, is prominent.
Tortilla chips and two house sauces, one mild, the other hot, come to the tables and each table has one essential accessory — a roll of paper towels.
Many dishes are served with thick chunks of very good garlic bread, something I didn’t expect in a Mexican restaurant but which turns out to be very compatible with the fare. Service is friendly and helpful by the staff.
The price structure might raise some eyebrows, but the larger seafood dishes are all meant to be shared. The platters are enough for four or five, and the seafood soups each serve two. Let’s just say that it would be hard to leave Mi Lindo hungry.
Mi Lindo San Blas
1807 Livernois, Detroit
Call: (313) 789-6100
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., and Sun., 10 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.
Prices: Lunch plates $7.95-$9.95, appetizers $6.99-$12.99, seafood soups $13.99-$17.99, dinner entrees $12.95-$23.95, seafood platters $14.99-$60 (the latter for a jumbo platter of prawns).
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate to high
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: One step at entrance.
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good ★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding