Maybe you’ve done the Michigan beach road trip. And the ski road trip. You’ve even taken a fall color tour and viewed many of our lighthouses. If you’re ready for a different kind of Michigan road trip, how about one in search of the Mitten State’s best tacos? It’s sure to satisfy your cravings, and you’ll visit some of our best towns and sights along the way. Wednesday was National Taco Day, but it’s not too late to celebrate it this weekend.
1. El Gallo Blanco, 2838 Portage Road, Kalamazoo
Let’s start in Kalamazoo, in the heart of West Michigan. This city, about 30 minutes from Lake Michigan, is a college town (Western Michigan University) with a hip vibe. El Gallo Blanco is the place locals go when they have a hankering for authentic Mexican. If it’s tacos you desire, you can’t go wrong with the Three Taco Combo. You get to choose flour or corn tortillas, and you can pick different fillings for each one. They have familiar flavors like steak and chicken, or you can go with something more exotic like cactus or beef tongue.
2. Pablo’s Old Town, 311 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing
Next, we’ll drive east to Lansing, Michigan’s State Capitol. Work up an appetite touring our historic Capitol Building with its enormous cast iron dome top and unique 1870s architecture. Then head to Pablo’s Old Town, a Lansing staple for classic Mexican food. Diners like the casual atmosphere and standard tacos with above average flavor.
3. Chela’s Restaurant and Taqueria, 693 S. Maple Rd., Ann Arbor
We keep going east to Ann Arbor, home of the renowned University of Michigan. Ann Arbor has plenty of upscale, trendy, fun places to eat. So from the outside, Chela’s may look unassuming, but your taste buds are in for a surprise at this shop serving up street-style tacos. Choose from fillings like barbacoa, carne asada and even vegetarian options. You can also pick your favorite hot sauce.
4. Taqueria El Rey, 4730 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit
Still going east, we set our heading for Detroit. Detroiters rave about the tacos at Taqueria El Rey. Portions are large, prices are low, and they say the eats are addictive. The pork, steak and chicken tacos are all delicious, but if you want something unique, regulars recommend the fried tripe. They also say the salsa verde is to die for. If you plan to binge on tacos at this joint, bring cash, since they don’t take plastic.
5. Mexico At The Market, 420 East Boulevard Dr., Flint
We’re finally going to start driving north, and our next is Flint. This city has seen some hard times in recent years with the decline in manufacturing and the water crisis that hit residents so hard. But Flint is determined to make a comeback. The local farmer’s market is committed to helping the community by creating a thriving, local fresh food system. Mexico at the Market is proud to be a part of that initiative. They serve up street tacos from from fresh ingredients that are big on flavor and easy on your wallet. You’ll also love their selection of chilis, hot sauces and salsas.
6. El Potrero, 106 S. Main Street, Lake City
Let’s keep heading north, but swing back a little west to Lake City. You can’t go wrong with the views in Lake City. Downtown sits right on beautiful Lake Missaukee, and Lake Sapphire and Crooked Lake are just on the edge of town. Known for having the, “Greatest Fourth in the North,” it’s also a good place to grab some tacos, if you find yourself road tripping on M-66. Order the Tacos Mexicanos at El Potrero and you’ll get five different tacos to try, including steak, carnitas, chorizo, chicken, and shrimp. Regulars also say you have to try the homemade salsa.
7. Jose’s Cantina, 1101 N State St, St. Ignace
Next, we’re going deep into Michigan’s northern reaches, across the Mackinac Bridge, into the Upper Peninsula where you find pristine forests and beaches. St. Ignace is just on the other side of the bridge, on the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. Fresh whitefish is a must-eat if you’re in the U.P. At Jose’s you can get it in a taco. They also have great chicken and beef tacos, if you’re not feeling so adventurous. Whatever you eat, you’re sure to enjoy the view of Lake Huron from their deck.
8. Jose’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant, Petoskey
Now we go back south, but we’re still “Up North” in Petoskey. The Lake Michigan beaches and the surrounding forest are a favorite place for folks to relax and enjoy Michigan’s outdoors. Downtown also has great boutique shopping and dining. If it’s tacos you crave, stop at Jose’s. This counter serves up fresh, authentic Mexican fare in a casual setting. When the weather is nice, enjoy dinning al fresco. Fans say you have to try the tiny tacos and be sure to order at least three.
9. Donkey Taqueria, 665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
We’re headed back to West Michigan where we started. Grand Rapids is about 50 minutes north of Kalamazoo. In recent years, it’s become known for it’s thriving art scene, thanks in part to the internationally acclaimed Art Prize competition. Each fall, thousands of artists from around the world display their works in venues all over the city, vying for large cash prizes. Donkey Taqueria is not a traditional Mexican eatery, but if you’re looking for an upscale taco experience, you’ll find it here. The contemporary menu features unique taco combinations like fried Brussels sprouts with macha sweet corn and braised lamb with pickled jalapeno.