Every so often, I have a craving for authentic Caribbean food. With Puerto Rican roots, I occasionally get nostalgic for the dishes of my childhood — chicharones de pollo (fried chunks of chicken) with arroz con gandules (rice and peas), and a side of maduros (sweet, ripe, fried plantains). A few weeks ago, when I had a taste for a good Latin meal, my husband and I ventured throughout Southwest Detroit to find the perfect spot to satisfy my craving.
The Southwest neighborhood is known for its Latin restaurants, typified by Mexican eateries perfect for plates of tamales and enchiladas, which is not to be confused with the Caribbean cuisine that my grandmother made from her kitchen in the Bronx. But simply being in an area with a Hispanic population of more than 50%, we knew that if there ever was a restaurant with chicharones on the menu, it’d be in Southwest. Our instinct was right.
Directly across the street from a taco truck, where a small crowd of gentlemen in cowboy hats noshed on what I convinced myself were likely the tastiest tacos in Mexicantown, we found a place. Nondescript, the quaint joint had no signage on its exterior, and when we crossed the threshold, two teenagers ran the show while the elders, reminiscent of my own grandmother, prepared the meals from an open kitchen. The place wasn’t fancy, but the food was good. (Those chicharones hit the spot.)
While national headlines drive visitors to Detroit’s increasing crop of award-winning restaurants, highly anticipated development projects, and swanky hotels, it’s the people who live here who really know where to find the good stuff. The denizens who unearth the hidden gold mines that lurk beneath the city’s surface simply by living, exploring, and, like me, sniffing out the next best greasy spoon to satiate their appetites.
For this year’s City Guide, we tapped Hazel Park-based documentary photographer Stephen Koss to capture southeast Michigan through the eyes of the very people who live here. The dwellers who’ve grown up in Howell, been educated in Ann Arbor, and had firsthand views of the redevelopment in downtown Detroit.
We’ll roll out our guide throughout the month of July, so stay tuned for the region’s must-visit haunts according to our neighbors as well as editor-approved attractions.