GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in Grand Rapids. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We — 13 ON YOUR SIDE digital producers Riley and Amy — have set out to find the tastiest spots in the area and are documenting our journey with a series called 13 Eats.
13 Eats is all about highlighting the best restaurants in the Grand Rapids area. This week, we’re visiting Los Mariscos de Pancho, a hole in the wall Mexican fusion eatery serving up meals unlike any you’ve tried before.
About Los Mariscos de Pancho
Los Mariscos de Pancho is a seafood-focused restaurant in Grand Rapids that focuses on catering and takeout. Their menu consists of large platters meant for sharing, but can be perfect for a hungry pair like ourselves.
While starting as an order-only restaurant, the demand for their Mexican fusion delicacies quickly outgrew their small operation. Their storefront on Leonard opened in the summer of 2021, and soon enough, their customers were lining up out the door for their dishes.
Starting with a husband and wife duo, Los Mariscos de Pancho has become a Grand Rapids staple. The quaint kitchen is open Thursday through Saturday from 12 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.
We ordered our dishes based on the delicious-looking menu photos, starting with the Quesabirria Plate ($15.00) which includes four quesas, consome (broth), limes, onion, cilantro and hot sauce. We also split the Ramen Birria ($12.00) with birria, noodles, cilantro, onion, limes and hot sauce, and finished off with a refreshing Horchata ($2.00).
We first dove into the quesabirria, sprinkling our onion and cilantro mixture and squeezing our limes over the dish before dunking it in the brothy red sauce. The outer shell was perfectly soft with a heaping of melted cheese covering the salty beef. The birria had just the right amount of spice to make it delicious without needing a cool-down. Being our first birria dish, we had no idea what to expect, but let us tell you – this is a dish we’ve begun craving again and again. After spending more than 22 years of our lives without birria, we are so happy to have been saved from our birria-drought.
Next, we moved on to the horchata. The drink is a creamy, delectably sweet glass of perfection that took us both to a summery island paradise in the middle of a Michigan March. It was comforting and refreshing all at once; definitely a must-buy for our fellow horchata lovers. We think it might be the perfect mid-summer day drink.
We topped off our mouthwatering meal with a hit menu item – the ramen birria. We pulled off the lid to the Tapatio ramen cup, and the steamy scent of savory meat, brothy sauce and fiery spice hit us all at once. The meat was cooked to perfection and paired well with the classic noodles. The sauce was spicy, but not overpowering to the dish, and the noodles gave a reprieve from all the flavor. Overall, it was a new dish that instantly felt classic, with an element of fun that we wholeheartedly enjoyed.
The exterior of Los Mariscos de Pancho is small and unassuming, with a dive-like ambiance. A bright blue color coats its outside walls and mirrors the vibrance of its food to a tee. But beyond the humble building and glass doors, the restaurant is sunny, bright and filled with some of the most decadent smells. Walking into the place is like being engulfed in a food lovers dream. One inhale and our mouths were already watering.
The inside of the restaurant is small and simple, but in a way that is cozy and genuine. Big windows let sunlight flow through the space, while stools and foldout chairs fill the front room. There isn’t glitz or glamor. It’s not trying to be anything that it isn’t. Instead, it’s simple, homegrown and full of people who are kind and passionate about their work. The focus truly is on the food. And let us tell you, it’s damn good.
Los Mariscos de Pancho
When our food came out in little styrofoam takeaway containers, we unwrapped each delicacy like a Christmas gift and placed them one by one on a round foldout table. We ate our food, ogling between each bite, while the line at the restaurant continued to grow longer. With each new addition to the line, the wait for food got longer. But every single person stayed and waited and left happily with hands full of good food. When we go back, we will happily stand in line too, because each bite is worth the wait.
Now brace yourself, because we don’t throw this kind of compliment around lightly: This is our favorite spot so far on the 13 Eats journey. We literally can’t stop talking about it. We keep looking at the photos. We are a little bit obsessed, but mostly just really excited.
This restaurant is everything that 13 Eats is all about. We do this to find and highlight the best, locally-owned eateries in town, and this is without a doubt one of them. Family owned and operated, full of heritage and homegrown roots, this is a hidden gem that everyone in Grand Rapids needs to try.
► Los Mariscos de Pancho is located at 1358 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
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