228 W Michigan Ave | Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-8pm | Sat-Sun 8am-8pm
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“You come try,” said Manuel De Paz, owner of Encuentro Latino. “I promise you will love it.” With that invitation extended, I was intrigued. It’s not every day that I eat Guatemalan food.
Encuentro Latino opened late last year in the spot formerly occupied by Wolverine Grill in downtown Ypsilanti. It retains the same casual vibe as the old diner, with 10 booths, counter seating and a few tables. Now the walls and decorations exude Latin warmth and flare. The restaurant offers many Guatemalan dishes to consider: appetizers such as chicken tacos, salads, soups, and entrees such as pupusas or beef stew with rice and homemade tortillas. Breakfast is served all day and specials are offered, too. Prices are affordable, with nothing more than $12.
Horchata, tamarindo and more
After settling into a booth, my family needed to decide on beverages. Our server, Sindy Vasquez, Manuel’s niece, was patient and friendly. She brought us samples of horchata, a rice milk drink with hints of cinnamon, tamarindo made from the fruit of the tamarind tree, and cantaloupe juice. Manuel’s wife makes the flavorful juices on site. My daughter, 9, ordered cantaloupe juice and I picked horchata. My husband stuck with water and my son, 13, chose Jarritos, a Mexican-brand soda.
Next, we ordered chips and guacamole ($5), after confirming they make their own guacamole. “We make everything,” Sindy told us. The guac was divine. Our generous bowl was rife with avocado and seasoned with tomatoes, cilantro and a hint of lemon, served with tasty, salty chips. Sindy brought us hot salsa, too, made with four different peppers. My husband, who likes spicy, was amazed by the heat and flavor.
For our entrees, my husband ordered the most popular dish, churrascos: beef cut with rice, beans, avocado, scallions, tomato sauce and corn tortillas ($11.95). I ordered the Guatemalan breakfast, another popular dish, with eggs, beans, fresh cheese, cream, fried plantains and tortillas ($8.95). My kids were less adventurous, ordering mac and cheese ($3.50) and chicken wings ($5.95). Other kids’ meal choices include chicken tenders, grilled cheese and cheese quesadilla ($3-3.95) with a side of fruit or French fries.
The kids gobbled up their dinners without complaint. On the other hand, my husband and I couldn’t keep quiet with our praise. The churrascos was heavenly with tender, tasty marinated beef. The avocado salad was fresh while thick, handmade corn tortillas were perfect along with appetizing rice, salsa and beans.
“Everything’s amazing,” declared my husband.
My Guatemalan breakfast was delightful, too. The cream brought out the flavor of the cheese, the beans were smooth, and the homemade salsa enhanced the eggs. Lightly fried plantains added sweetness.
“¡Muy delicioso!” my eighth grader proclaimed in Spanish.
We finished with a piece of Tres Leches cake, with fruit and nuts in between layers of moist white cake ($4.99). Okay, so I finished with a piece of cake, as my family was too full to indulge. We left not only full, but also knowledgeable about the flavors of Guatemalan food. Look for Manuel when you visit and prepare to be educated—and delighted, too.
The Short Course
To avoid wait: You can make a reservation
Noise level: Moderate
Bathroom amenities: No changing table
High chairs? Yes
Got milk? Yes, plus a wide variety of fresh juices, sodas, and drinks like horchata.
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? Get fresh fruit as a side.
Food allergy concerns? Everything is made-to-order. They know all of the ingredients and can advise you. Call ahead and talk to your server and the kitchen.