We walked in and found a large entry way with a weird decor mix of Aztec-ish paintings and a blow-up beer can. A large dining room to the left was empty but for one couple. We were seated in an aisle of booths running along the kitchen, the width of the building. Everyone else was seated there too, except for that one lucky couple in the dining room.
Straight ahead from the entry was the bar, containing a few booths along the back, mirrored wall and fairly large u-shaped bar seating. A patio was also visible, which would be lovely on a summer night. Our server immediately announced that they had coke products and a full bar. Good to know.
So we were seated in the 7-booth alley and while we were waiting, we were treated to the sound of jack hammers going off in the bar (probably just a drill but it was jackhammer loud). We asked our server what was going on and she informed us, in a necessarily loud voice, that Keno was being installed in the bar. Well-timed construction, not. Fortunately, the work ceased after about 15 minutes, just minutes before we were headed for the door.
Perusing the pretty typical, large Mexican restaurant menu, we looked through five full-sized pages that contained an additional insert for features. And we started with Chorizo con Queso. The homemade Mexican sausage and cheese sauce made for a mighty fine dish. The cheese was mouth-watering delicious and not too rich as to be overwhelming but rich enough to make us want more. The Chorizo was mildly spicy and could have been hotter but that was fixable at the table.
We asked our server if she had a favorite and she promptly recommended Carnitas ~ pork marinated in a secret family recipe, which was listed as one of their specialties. It had to be tried. The pork was tender and the secret family recipe marinade brought a lot of flavor to it. Accompanying the pork were peppers, pico de gallo, refried beans, rice, and corn (or flour) tortillas.
Being greedy to taste more food than two people could/would normally eat, we ordered two additional dishes, Tacos al Pastorale, and Shrimp Empanada (Empanda on the menu). (Our server asked us why we were ordering so much food - why would she care? :-)
The tacos were fine but we were taken by surprise by the empanada because we expected the traditional concoction ~ pastry stuffed with good things. Because we didn't pay enough attention to the menu description (even with all that time), we discovered that instead of pastry, a filet of tilapia was the vessel for the shrimp. And it kind of worked. All would have been good but the promised orange and limes were nowhere to be found, and their citrus, acidic presence was missed. Avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pico de gallo were fresh but didn't make up for it.
The menu categories range as follows: starters, salads, nachos, vegetarian selections, features, house specialties, from the gulf, fresh taste of old mexico, fajitas and burritos, combinations, tacos enchiladas burritos, lunch specials, gringo grub (consisting of a chicken sandwich, and burger and fries), desserts, and beverages. We mention these only because you can't find them on their website.
And if you're checking out their website, be sure your speakers are turned down or off. Because immediately Cielito Lindo will begin blaring. Search as you might for the full menu, you won't find it. You can try clicking on price options, which will provide a specific dish, but there are no food categories from which to search. Their facebook account is also under-utilized. Other than one posting in 2015, the others go back to 2011. And if it's your first time looking for this place, this is the street signage to look for. The restaurant has none.
Obviously, this restaurant is relying on its loyal, local customers and we imagine they are many. If we lived nearby, we would return as well. But we can't recommend driving out there from Grand Rapids when we have Maggie's Kitchen, El Granjero, and La Taqueria San Jose right here. There's no reason to drive Kentwood for good Mexican food, but maybe for the summer patio and full bar!
Sidenote on the women's bathroom ~ you can look right over the top of the stalls ~ very poor design feature so be forewarned!