Ferndale finally has a Mexican bar and restaurant, and like the town itself, it’s super fun and colorful.
Mezcal Mexican Bar & Kitchen debuted on Nine Mile this spring, just east of the heart of downtown Ferndale, a destination for people from all over Metro Detroit to dine and bar hop.
Ferndale already had Latin cuisine with Woodward’s Culantro, a Peruvian restaurant specializing in empanadas and charcoal-roasted chicken. Of course, there’s Imperial, within sight of Mezcal, which serves California-style street tacos and a whole menu of margaritas. Ferndale’s Detroit Fleat also serves tacos and tequila, among other things, but it’s not a Mexican restaurant. Ferndale is also home to metro Detroit’s worst Chipotle, according to Google reviews.
Mezcal is a true Mexican cuisine with influences from Mexico City, the state of Jalisco and the owners’ home state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. Owners Sandra Haro and her brother Jose Granados had the idea to get into the industry about two years ago. They teamed up with chef Luis Granados, formerly of the Pontiac Chilango restaurant to open Mezcal.
Haro says she and her brother commute frequently between the Detroit metro area and Mexico and draw inspiration from their food and drink menu each time they visit.
“We’re not just a typical Mexican restaurant, we wanted to do a Mexican restaurant with a little twist,” said Haro, who previously served as a patient care coordinator before moving into the restaurant business. “We wanted to bring our culture, like the art, the luchadores, the alebrijes that come from Mexico. We wanted to have the art, the food and of course the mezcal which is starting to be well known in some parts of the United States.
In fact, she said that the owner of the building contacted them and invited them to rent the space, which is the ground floor of the residential lofts. This corner was once Conserva, a chef-run, art-filled restaurant that closed in 2018 after two years. Before that, it was the acclaimed tasting menu of the Torino restaurant.
Mezcal’s approach seems to be working for the neighborhood and there are already plans for expansion. It’s a laid-back spot that doesn’t require reservations, it’s colorful, and the price is on par with some of the other hotspots in town. The 110-seat restaurant will increase by another 30 chairs next month when it expands to the empty storefront next door. They’re also working on a taco truck.
Since it’s in the name, let’s start with the bar. Mezcal is an agave-based spirit that is a bit stronger and smokier than tequila. As Haro said, it has grown in popularity in the Detroit metro area over the past few years. When I saw that a restaurant called “Mezcal” was coming to trendy Ferndale, it made perfect sense to me.
For margaritas, you have a choice of house or premium, $10 or $15, depending on the quality of the spirit. Each comes with your choice of tequila or mezcal. Choose the latter for that stronger, smokier flavor. The spicy paloma is no joke and will bite you if you sip it unprepared. For something with less citrus and heat, try old-fashioned Oaxaca made with mezcal and tequila, plus bitters and sweet with agave.
If you want to learn more about the intricacies and intricacies of the different types of mezcal, order a flight. The restaurant offers four price points, each offering three spirits along with seasonal fruit and your choice of smoked worm or Tajin salt, orange seasoning with salt, chilies and lime.
I tried something from almost every section of the food menu, and the birria tacos and chicken tinga tostada were the standouts. Each was packed with flavor, texture, and juicy, well-seasoned protein.
I’ve eaten fantastic birria since the Jalisco dish gained popularity on Metro Detroit’s Mexican menus, and Mezcal ranks among the best. When ordered as a single taco, the birria doesn’t come with any consommé for dipping, but it was so juicy and flavorful it didn’t need it, honestly. The creamy, melted mozzarella emerging from the sides of the taco was an added bonus.
Mezcal’s menu offers 11 homemade tacos plus basic street tacos with cilantro and onion and your choice of meat. Of the specialty tacos, the birria was my favorite and I will be going back and getting the three taco combo of these (the combo comes with consommé). I would also recommend the fish taco with crispy fried tilapia, pink pickled onion, sliced bright green avocado and creamy chipotle sauce on a flour tortilla, and the Mezcal taco with a short rib and a pineapple sauce.
The list of homemade tacos also has options for vegetarians, vegans, and even a keto taco with a cheese shell.
As we see more often, fries and salsa are not free. Get the “trio of fries” with a decent salsa, brighter-than-creamy guacamole, and a warm, satisfying queso dip. The fries are not over fried or salty and are a bit thin.
The chicken tinga tostada is its own section of the menu, and it’s lovely. When served, the aroma of the large fried corn tortilla makes you want to dig. It’s topped with refried beans, which anchor the juicy, shredded chipotle chicken and the chopped iceberg lettuce, sour cream and cotija cheese give it a burst of crunchy freshness. . They only cost $4; order two for lunch under $10.
Another dish that stood out to me was the Mezcal salad. There’s a bit of mixed greens and lots of toppings including your choice of grilled chicken or asada – the meat comes on the cold salad which is fine but worth noting in case you’re expecting a very hot protein-plus sliced grape tomatoes, banana pepper rings, pineapple, carrots, red onion, cotija cheese, and a savory but not spicy jalapeño dressing. The colorful combination of strong flavors confused me at first and I was rather skeptical. The more I ate it, however, the more I enjoyed its spiciness.
For a sweet finish, the homemade flan is a light and fluffy flan with caramel and a strawberry drizzle.
Along with growing physically, Haro says Mezcal will start hosting more monthly events like Mexican pop singers, maybe bingo and drag queen shows. How very Ferndale.
Mexican Mezcal Bar & Kitchen
201 E. Nine Mile, Ferndale (248) 268-3915 or mezcalferndale.comEvaluation: ★★ (very good)Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Thurs, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat and 10am-3pm Sun.Prices: Appetizers, $5 to $13; soup and salads, $6-$15; tostada and tacos, $4 to $5.50 each; combos of three tacos from $13 to $15; tortas, quesadillas and burritos, $10 to $17; dessert, $7-$8; cocktails, $10-$15; beer, $3 to $5; wine, $10; mezcal flights, $45-$100.Reservations: None takenCarry out: Yes, by phone.Outdoor dining: The southwest corner of the restaurant facing downtown Ferndale has a few tables with umbrellas.Noise level: Medium to loud in the bar, quieter if you sit in the side room.Accessibility: No obstacle to the main dining room; a small step towards the patio.Car park: Street parking with meter in front, urban lots with meter within walking distance.
What the stars mean: ★ — good ★★ — very good ★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — extraordinary