Michigan’s Best Local Eats: At La Pinata, everything is made from scratch

by admin

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI — Luis Herrera, owner of the La Piñata in Oshtemo Township, prides himself on providing a true experience in Mexican cuisine.

“It’s not like Tex-Mex,” Herrera said. “It’s authentic Mexican food.”

And Herrera would know. Born in Mexico, he first honed his cooking skills there before emigrating in 1997 to work in a Mississippi restaurant operated by friends. He was 22 years old, and started out in the restaurant kitchen, working his way up, learning the restaurant business along the way.

When his friends relocated to Ohio to open a restaurant there, Herrera moved North with them. Around 15 years ago, they moved to Michigan and opened La Piñata, a 138-seat restaurant located at 475 N. Drake, across the parking lot from Harding’s supermarket and Kohl’s department store near the southwest intersection of Drake and West Main.

Herrera took ownership in 2010.

The restaurant has an extensive menu, and Herrera stresses that everything is made from scratch.

“We make everything at the restaurant. We make everything,” he said. “We don’t buy anything that is already cooked. We make the (tortilla) chips here, we make the salsa, we make everything fresh every day.”

Most popular are the tacos and fajitas, he said.

The taco choices include steak, chicken, pork, chorizo sausage, fish, shrimp, tongue and pork stomach. Taco plates with three tacos, rice and beans range from $14.99 to $16.99, or can be purchased ala carte for $2.75 to $3.99 per taco. The tacos are available “American style” (flour tortilla with shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes and sour cream toppings) or “Mexican style,” (corn tortilla with chopped onion and cilantro toppings).

The fajita offerings range from the Fiesta Fajitas with steak, chicken, shrimp and chorizo sausage ($20.99 for a single serving or $36.99 for two) to the Fajita Del Mar with shrimp, scallops, crab and vegetables ($24.99 for one and $39.99 for two). Customers also can order fajita platters with a choice of meat or shrimp.

Other menu highlights include Chili Verde, which is chunks of pork cooked in homemade green tomatillo sauce, several versions on skirt steak and ribeye, sliced tongue, and chicken with mole sauce, not to mention an array of quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos and chimichangas.

The restaurant also is well known for its margaritas.

“I have my own formula for the margaritas — that’s a big, big deal for us,” Herrera said, and the sangria also is a house recipe.

The house margarita — available in lime, strawberry, raspberry, pina colada, peach, mango or banana — comes in a variety of sizes, from 12 ounce ($5.49) to a 60-ounce pitcher ($20.99). The “ultimate” margarita, made with Jose Cuervo Sauza 1800 tequila, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, lime juice and sweet and sour mix, is $7.99 for a 12-ounce glass and $26.99 for a pitcher. There’s also the Sangria Margarita, $12.99 for a glass.

Herrera, who operates the restaurant with his wife and their two children, said he’s still recovering from the effects on his business from the pandemic, noting that half of business is now takeout.

He’s now thinking about opening a second restaurant along West Main, although that’s an idea still very much in the planning stages.

“My goal to to open another restaurant,” he said. “We love what we do.”

More from MLive:

26 new restaurants that began serving the Kalamazoo area in 2022

Boil water advisory issued for part of Kalamazoo

‘Spiritual leader’ of Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot gets nearly 20 years in prison

Related Posts

Leave a Comment