In 1989, Michelle Rowan moved from her home state of Jalisco, Mexico to Ypsilanti, Michigan in search of her piece of the American dream.
There were a plethora of Mexican restaurants back then and it was easy to spot the real from the imitation. Aside from cooking in her kitchen back home, she had no prior knowledge or experience to run a restaurant. More than 20 years later, Rowan’s La Fiesta Mexicana has become an oasis for lovers of solid Mexican cuisine in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area.
Located at 529 W. Cross St. in Ypsilanti, the restaurant has withstood economic uncertainty and has prevailed as a small business in a time when many in the area are folding.
“I think I’ve been able to stay around because of the solid model we’ve cultivated, which is fresh food, fresh ingredients and everything in our restaurant is made with love,” Rowan said.
With my recent trip to the local eatery, I fell in love. As I walked in, the first thing that struck me was the décor. Homemade wreaths from the old country make your eyes do a double take. The paintings of legendary Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and the coziness of the place make you feel as if you’re right in Madre’s kitchen.
The place was remarkably clean, so much so that during my interview with Rowan, she was furiously removing crumbs from my table post-meal.
I ordered enchiladas tapatias dish, which traditionally is made with a creamy poblano chile and tomato sauce. Being the carnivore that I am, I asked for beef instead which was well seasoned and not bland in the slightest. The tortillas are made fresh daily. Served with frijoles and rice, 80 percent of the entrees come with this and also complimentary chips and salsa,.My taste buds exploded.
“We offer seven different kinds of tortillas and they’re made fresh daily. The salsa is made fresh and we make sure to take care of our customers,” Rowan said.
Legendary WJR morning man in Detroit, J.P. McCarthy was a frequent customer back in the 1980s and 1990s before his death in 1995. Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos will pop in when they’re in Michigan.
Taken from an old review about La Fiesta Mexicana, Olmos was quoted as saying, “Aside from my mother’s of course, this is the best Mexican food I’ve ever tasted.”
Along with business partner Guillermo “Memo” Alenan, Rowan has no signs of slowing down or losing steam.
La Fiesta Mexicana will continue to survive the competition with quality Mexican dishes and a staff that will make you feel at home.