Local Eats: Maggie’s Kitchen is a family-run Grand Rapids establishment, offering authentic Mexican cuisine

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – From the famous barbacoa tacos to the staff, everything in Maggie’s Kitchen is skillfully seasoned with decades of culinary experience.

Located at 636 Bridge Street NW, the restaurant has served authentic Mexican cuisine on the West Side of Grand Rapid for nearly 40 years. People are ready to travel for the popular styrofoam plate dishes.

Owner Luis Ramirez said the restaurant doesn’t have to move because people get there – over 100 miles in some cases, with diners ranging from Chicago to Traverse City to Lansing.

The draw is for the restaurant’s famous barbacoa tacos – a seemingly simple combination of barbacoa, cheese, onions, coriander and a soft corn tortilla – which Maggie’s put on the menu for many. The beef cheek is slowly cooked in its own juices in a steam boiler for over five hours, resulting in juicy barbacoa with a rich blend of spices.

For those traveling to Maggie’s legendary barbacoa, the pilgrimage begins a week with an order and in some cases ends with them picking up the meat to melt in the mouth per pound ($ 10 per pound).

The combination of barbacoa tacos and matching weekend menudo soup at Maggie is iconic in West Michigan and beyond, he said.

“It’s a tradition we’re slowly building,” said Ramirez. “The barbacoa and the soup we make is a special soup called menudo. Although we only offer 50% of the restaurant’s capacity, people like to come in on the weekends, especially Saturdays, and have a bowl of menudo and a couple of barbacoa tacos. “

Under Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants and bars are limited to 50% indoor dining capacity.

While many can’t remember a time when Maggie’s Kitchen in Grand Rapids didn’t serve classic dishes, there was a time when they didn’t bring Michoacan to Michigan. However, Ramirez said there has never been a time when his family has not been in the food service.

Ramirez is originally from the Texas-Laredo, Mexico border. When he was 16, he worked for the first time in a hotel restaurant, where his mother, Maggie, also worked. Ramirez’s family moved to Chicago in 1972, where he continued to work as a bartender in the hospitality industry, before deciding years later to move to Grand Rapids.

The goal has always been to open a family business. At the Cinco de Mayo in 1982, Maggie’s opened its doors as a small shop with a deli.

The original space wasn’t actually a kitchen, but one day when Maggie was preparing a meal, some construction workers starting a multi-month highway project came by and asked for a meal that got everything going.

“So my mother made a commitment to prepare meals for 12 to 15 people five days a week,” said Ramirez. “When I saw that, I said, ‘Wow. ‘We only have a small, small kitchen, but there wasn’t really a restaurant. So I immediately said that I was going to start building something for my mother – a kitchen, a real kitchen. “

Ramirez and his son built this kitchen and only opened to take away. When people came, Ramirez said they would ask to borrow the chairs the staff would have for breaks so they could eat around the house. This inspired a further expansion in 1984-85 to build a dining area with 10 tables.

As the restaurant continued to grow, it was a family affair. From his wife to his children to grandchildren, Ramirez said they do everything.

“Yes, everyone is involved,” he said. “We are not afraid to work. I’m not afraid of cleaning the sidewalks, beating them up, and whatever has to be done out there every day. If you own the place and are interested in something, do a little of everything. “

The menu was also built up as the restaurant’s reputation grew, but much of the food has been in the Ramirez ‘family for generations. The food has become local favorites.

On the breakfast side of the menu, Ramirez said Maggie’s Huevos Rancheros ($ 10.95) was an all-day favorite. The dish combines two sunny eggs with a rich ranchero sauce over a fried corn tortilla. It comes with all the fixings – homemade beans and rice that are freshly made in the house every day.

At lunch, Ramirez said taco plates (over $ 12.50) combine a range of proteins with beans, rice, lettuce, and tortillas to fill an abs or two. All tacos are optionally available with mild salsa or spicy salsa verde, which Maggie’s Kitchen prepares daily.

Food is a piece of home, said Ramirez, and it’s just one way the restaurant greets its guests.

Between an open kitchen and an airy dining area with colorful decor, guests are always welcome at the table. Just in case, Ramirez personally roams the restaurant to see them and ask how they like the food or how they get to know them.

Those homestyle flavors have become a focal point for other customers, and Ramirez said Maggie’s kitchen has become a hub for his community. The restaurant worked with the neighborhood to raise funds for community members with high medical bills and donations for migrant children.

But when it comes to breaking Maggie’s winning formula, Ramirez said it was easy: keep your family close and cook the food you love.

“What we’re doing here is no secret,” he said. “We cook fresh every day … you can taste the difference when you eat out in Maggie’s kitchen.”

Maggie’s Kitchen is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and can be reached at (616) 458-8583. The full menu can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

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