Come Sunday, the streets of southwest Detroit will be full of revelers celebrating the 52nd annual Cinco de Mayo parade. And eateries in the area are gearing up to feed the hungry throngs.
Starting at noon, the event starts at Patton Park at West Vernor and Woodmere. The parade will head east and end at Clark Park. The event draws around 40,000 people every year. It’s an opportunity to show off the region to the thousands who may be visiting for the first time. Kathy Wendler, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association, said she hopes people take the time to explore boundaries beyond the parade route.
“We are thrilled to see the influx of visitors to southwest Detroit as they gather to celebrate the Cinco de Mayo holiday,” Wendler said. “While there are many wonderful restaurants in Mexicantown, we encourage everyone to take the opportunity to follow West Vernor Highway into the heart of southwest Detroit and explore the many restaurants, mercados, bakeries and merchants that make our community so special.”
Arnulfo “Ruffy” Ramirez owned more than 15 restaurants stretching from Jackson to Saginaw and into western Wayne and Oakland counties before opening the seafood-centric Mi Lindo San Blas restaurant on Livernois about six months ago. This restaurant is special for him. He grew up in San Blas, Mexico, and said it made sense to bring such a restaurant to southwest Detroit.
“I wanted to bring this to Detroit because the Mexican population loves seafood — this type of seafood,” Ramirez, 42, said from inside the 3,800-square-foot establishment. “And it’s turning out great. I’m surprised how busy we are. I’m surprised how the people have embraced the idea.”
Fish, fried whole or cooked with a hot “diabla” sauce, is on the menu. So is octopus, shrimp, prawns and oysters. And Ramirez, whose restaurants include the popular Los Tres Amigos throughout the state, is ramping up for a busy day Sunday.
But it’ll be nothing new for Ramirez, who said his new restaurant is riding the coattails of a busier, safer and brighter area than in the past.
“For us, every Saturday and Sunday is like Cinco de Mayo,” he said.
It’s also an opportunity for parade organizers to put further distance behind violence that marred the event in 2014. A fatal shooting halted festivities along the parade route that year. Andres DeJusus, 19, was killed in an altercation between two families. Police said Dejesus was affiliated with a street gang and was among a group who attacked a member of the shooter’s family. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office ruled the shooting self defense of a person and no charges were filed.
There are more than 1,700 businesses inside the 15 square miles making up southwest Detroit. The area is progressing, said Mike Odom, SDBA chairman. The organization is seeing increased interest regarding land now. Efforts by the nonprofit in recent years raised millions and resulted in much-needed streetlights along Vernor, helping brighten the streets and sidewalks of scores of businesses.
“Maybe it’s spreading in from Midtown and Corktown, but we’re getting a lot of inquires about properties and space,” Odom said. “Take the opportunity and come down, and you’ll find so much more than just the great restaurants.”
Not all of the food options in the area have to remain in one place. Some are mobile. The area was home to food trucks and pop-ups long before they became commonplace around Campus Martius and downtown.
Six years ago, Nancy Diaz and her husband, Luis, bought their first food truck. Now they have four spread throughout southwest Detroit. And they’re about as busy as they can handle, she said.
“I’m seeing a lot of customers from outside of the area of southwest Detroit,” she said. “When the recession happened you saw people moving out of Detroit. Now people are coming back. Houses are going up. There are projects. You’re seeing more people that want to invest in southwest Detroit.”
Shrimp Avocado and Caramelized Onion quesadillas
2 tablespoons butter (plus more for brushing outside)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet onion
1 pound large shrimp
Salt and pepper to taste
8 flour tortillas
1 pound mix jack and cheddar cheese
1 large avocado
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
Fresh tomato salsa
In a medium skillet heat 1 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil over medium high heat. the thinly sliced onions stirring occasionally (but not too often) until caramelized. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add additional tablespoon of butter to pan and add the shrimp. Season the shrimp lightly with salt and pepper. Cook shrimp 2 to 3 minutes stirring frequently until opaque and lightly golden, remove from heat and set aside. Place 4 tortillas on a flat surface and divide half of the cheese among them. Add the caramelized onion, shrimp and avocado.
Top with the remaining half of the cheese, and another tortilla on top.
Lightly brush the outside with a little melted butter or olive oil and place in a preheated quesadilla maker or a hot pan. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortilla attains a golden color and nice crisp. If using a skillet, flip after about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and cayenne pepper to sour cream and stir to combine.
Cut quesadillas into wedges using a pizza cutter and top with the sour cream, salsa and chopped cilantro. Serves 4.
Per serving: 1,112 calories; 70 g fat (34 g saturated fat; 57 percent calories from fat); 63 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 345 mg cholesterol; 2,690 mg sodium; 59 g protein; 8 g fiber.
Coconut Cream Flan
Recipe adapted from “The Pastry Queen” by Rebecca Rather.
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark rum
Shave coconut, lightly toasted for garnish
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place the sugar in a small, uncoated skillet. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat until melted and golden brown. Pour it into a 1-quart baking dish or distribute evenly among eight 1-cup capacity ramekins. Tip and turn the dish or ramekins to coat the bottom and sides with the melted sugar.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until foamy. Stir in the condensed milk, cream of coconut, half-and-half, vanilla and rum. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Put the baking dish in a larger baking dish and set it in the oven. Pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish or ramekins.
Bake 1 hour for the 1-quart or 45 minutes for the ramekins, until the center is almost set. Remove the flan from the pan of water and cool on a rack. Invert onto a serving plate; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Sprinkle with toasted coconut before serving. The flan will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Serves 8.
Per serving: 500 calories; 26 g fat (18 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 56 g carbohydrates; x g sugar; 187 mg cholesterol; 132 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 1 g fiber.
Baja Style Fish Tacos
From Marcela Valladolid/foodnetwork.com
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup dark Mexican beer*
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup Mexican crema** or sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil, for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
2 pounds skinned halibut cut into 5 by 1/2-inch strips
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups tomatillo salsa (store-bought or homemade) for garnish, optional
Pickled jalapenos, for garnish, optional
For the Beer Batter: Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually add in the beer while whisking. Set aside and let the batter rest for 15 minutes before using.
For Cream Sauce: Add the mayonnaise and crema to a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice and water. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper (can be made 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated).
For the Fish: In a large skillet, over medium heat, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1-inch. Heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees or when the end of a wooden spoon sizzles when inserted into the oil.
On a large plate, combine the flour and salt. Season the fish pieces all over with salt and pepper and coat with the flour. Working in batches, dip the fillets fillets in the beer batter and coat on both sides. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Make tacos with the tortillas and fish and top each with cream, shredded cabbage, tomatillo salsa and pickled jalapenos, if desired.
*Cook’s Note: Crack open a cold Mexican cerveza like a Negra Modelo or a 2 Equis (XX) Amber to make this tasty beer batter, which will change the way you think about fried fish! You can use it for vegetables, too.
**Cook’s Note: Mexican Crema is Mexico’s version of creme fraiche and is found at many supermarkets and can easily be substituted with sour cream. Serves 8.
Per serving: 517 calories; 22 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 50 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 63 mg cholesterol; 1,044 mg sodium; 26 g protein; 5 g fiber.
From the Associated Press
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 to 4 Thai red chilies (depending on desired heat)
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
6 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2.7-ounce disk Mexican chocolate (such as Taza)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Cooked brown rice, to serve
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add the almonds, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilies, then cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes. Add the orange juice and chicken broth, then stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the tomato paste and oregano. Transfer the mixture to a blender, then add the chocolate. Blend until smooth, then set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high and heat the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with salt, then add it to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes per side. Return the sauce to the skillet, stirring gently to cover the chicken. Return to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Serve the chicken over rice, spooning mole sauce over the top. Serves 6.
Per serving (without rice): 346 calories; 17 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 44 percent calories from fat); 26 g carbohydrates; 17 g sugar; 105 mg cholesterol; 410 mg sodium; 24 g protein; 4 g fiber.