This time it's a restaurant, the El Barzon in southwest Detroit. Man, it's a great little place.
If you live in the Detroit area, I would advise checking it out. It's absolutely worth the drive and price. In fact, I would say it's well under-priced right now (not sure how long it will stay that way as it is becoming a hot place and my guess is its prices may rise).
If you don't live near Detroit and may never make it to El Barzon, consider this a salute to the small businessperson who took a big risk and it worked.
Consider this another spicy and tasty example of the American Dream in action – Mexican/Italian style.
Here's what I know about El Barzon. The owner was a Mexican-American executive chef at Il Posto, a fancy-schmancy upscale Italian restaurant in Southfield, MI. After learning how to cook Italian food VERY well, he set out to create his own little piece of culinary paradise – combining his native Mexian food with his Italian training. And holy moly, he did it!
The place kicks butt whether you want outstanding Italian dishes or Mexican favorites. This ain't taco bell or Chi Chi's folks. This is a place you'll see neighborhood Mexican families, munching away on mole and tacos, sitting next to a table of hoity-toity, expensively dressed Grosse Pointers (whose presence is what scares me that this place is going to nowhere but up, both in price and popularity). You see, it's not just a few of these upscale folks that fill the tables for evening dinner. The word is out that this place is great and I keep my fingers crossed that nothing changes.
Finally, I want to point out my favorite part of this whole story. El Barzon represents a little guy taking a chance and (as far as I know) reaping a big reward for it. And instead of bringing the upscale food to the people who can afford it, he made them come to him. Trust me when I tell you that the neighborhood around El Barzon has seen better days. A lot of better days. I lived about a mile or so away 10 years ago and the neighborhood ain't no joke. I used to drive by the building a lot and I'm pretty sure it was vacant.
El Barzon is the type of place that sprouts up in under-developed areas of major cities across the country. Urban renewal starts with places like El Barzon and hopefully it spreads. Trust me, Detroit needs all the El Barzons it can get. And it needs to support the El Barzons with every penny it has.
So, if you live around Detroit, stop by and enjoy a great meal at El Barzon (or find a place like it). Or if you don't live in Detroit, maybe you know another place like El Barzon that you support. Good for you. And don't take my word for it. Check out Yelp reviews on El Barzon.
The bottom line is that El Barzon is bigger than the outstanding food that comes from the kitchen. It's bigger than the dozen or so folks the place employs. It represents hope and dreams.
When dreams come true, that gives me hope.