The smell of fresh tortillas baking at the La Jalisciense factory leads hungry diners and curious visitors to Bagley Street, the main thoroughfare of the city’s Mexican district. Located about five miles from downtown on the city’s southwest side, the neighborhood is divided by I-75, so there’s an eastern and western side, with shops, restaurants, and homes on both.
Here’s where you’ll find colorful Mexican mercados and see elderly Mexican women, heads covered with an old-fashioned lace mantilla, praying the rosary in one of the historic churches, including Ste. Anne de Detroit (1000 Ste. Anne St., 313/496-1701, www.ste-anne.org ), the city’s oldest, founded in 1701. In summer, the area hosts a popular outdoor market on Sunday where you can pick up fresh chili peppers and other spicy souvenirs.
The Mexican restaurants grouped along streets around Bagley provide the area’s main income and job base. Forget Taco Bell; this is the real thing. Salt-rimmed margaritas, soft-shell tacos full of spicy meat and onions, and soft, flaky sopaipillas rival the best south of the border.
Queen of them all is Xochimilco (3409 Bagley St., 313/843-0179, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily, $4–14) where Mexican art and the eyes of God cover the walls, and where weekend waits can stretch to over an hour.
Other fans of Mexican fare prefer Xochi’s often-less-crowded competitors, such as Mexican Village (2600 Bagley St., 313/237-0333, www.mexicanvillagefood.com , 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Fri.–Sat., $5–18).