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Traveling over 1,500 miles, the tastes of Monterrey, Mexico land on Lansing’s doorstep.
“They always put ‘authentic Mexican restaurant’ on the sign when it’s actually Tex-Mex food,” Tacos Monterrey owner Ismael Alejandro Puente Rodriguez said. “After working four years here in Mexican restaurants, I saw a lot of things they could do better.”
The restaurant will serve tacos, quesadillas, burritos and taco salads with the customer’s choice of meat. They plan on rolling out a new breakfast this week with breakfast tacos, scrambled eggs entrees, breakfast burritos and pancakes from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., with a free 12 ounce coffee included. The sign will be up as well.
Moving to Lansing in 2010, Rodriguez said the first idea of opening a restaurant came from his aunt who lived in Charlotte, Michigan, for 16 years.
She visited Mexico, told the family about Lansing and the idea for a restaurant was born, he said.
“It’s always been my mom’s dream,” Rodriguez said. His mom must make the most of her time in Lansing, because she has to return to Mexico in one year, he said.
His mom taught him how to cook at 10 years old and all of the recipes come from his grandmother, he added.
From his time at local Mexican restaurants, Rodriguez discovered Mexican people in Lansing accept Tex-Mex, not because they want it, but because they are hungry.
“I talked to my customers about my mom’s food truck in Mexico and wanting to open a restaurant here, and they said it would be amazing,” Rodriguez said. “After that, I thought we could start a business in Lansing now.”
Traditional Mexican cooking relies on vegetables to flavor the meat instead of spices like Tex-Mex, Rodriguez said.
“We cook our steak with peppers, onions, tomatoes and a little salt. Then we remove the vegetables and it keeps the flavor.”
There are vegetarian options as well. Tacos Monterrey can substitute meat with nopalitos, a seasoned cactus or espinacas, a spinach and mushroom mixture.
Working with his mom and dad feels comfortable, he said. “You know your family, how they work and how they think.”
If the business goes well downtown, the next goal is expansion to multiple locations, Rodriguez said.
“I want it to be known as a place for good vibes and good food.”
Tacos Monterrey 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday 212 S. Washington Sq., Lansing (517) 657-7585