Menu Filter

Calexico Here's what you need to know before dining at Downtown's new California-Mexican spot


1040 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI
  • Neighborhood: Downtown
  • Price Level:   
  • Vegetarian Options
  • Outdoor Patio
  • Cards Accepted

Tags: Mexican, downtown, burritos, calexico, baja-style, california

Fusion cuisine is a funny thing. It’s inherently inauthentic, if you think about it: the merging of two cultures to create something completely new. Who decides the rules of this new genre? Are there any rules at all?

We have nothing but love for the folks who put their own weird twists on classic dishes. Without those crazy recipe rebels, we would never know the deliciousness of taco rice or barbecued chow mein.

We’re cool with it not being authentic. So long as it’s good.

Calexico, Downton’s new California-Mexican spot, has had a bit of a bumpy welcome to Detroit. After hearing lots of other opinions, we decided to try it for ourselves. This is what we found.

You should know up front that this not the kind of Mexican cuisine you’ll find in hole-in-the-wall taquerias throughout Southwest Detroit, with their palm-sized, homemade corn tortillas and flavorful meats. And a lot of the food was very different from the Baja-style cuisine we ate during the years we lived in Southern California, with its propensity toward grilled rather than fried meats and topping everything with fresh avocados and lime instead of cheese or sour cream.

But if you know all that going in, Calexico’s food is actually very tasty.

Few dishes better represent the Californian interpretation of Mexican flavors than the burrito, and this is a good place to begin your journey through Calexico. They start with an oversized flour tortilla (think Chipotle but even bigger), then stuff it with as many meats, cheese or veggies as it will hold. The pollo asado burrito comes with grilled marinated chicken, your choice of black or refried beans, rice, monterey jack cheese, pico de gallo and avocado sauce.

The chicken and beans are tender, and the pico tastes freshly made. The flavors are very mild, so shake on any one (or two!) of the half-dozen bottles of hot sauce camped out on your table and dig in. Be prepared to take home leftovers if you do get a burrito; the portion is so massive it could bring a lumberjack to his knees trying to finish the whole thing in one sitting.

For a New Mexican twist, order your burrito “wet” with green or red enchilada sauce.

Rolled quesadillas are one of Calexico’s signature dishes, and are a good choice if you’d like something you can actually pick up and eat with your hands – slightly smaller than the he-man burritos. The rolled quesadillas are just that – one big quesadilla (flour tortillas, stuffed with cheese and – if you like – meat or veggies), rolled and then grilled like a panini. It’s like a gooey layer cake of melted cheese and tortilla.

If you’re in the mood for something with less cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese, go for Calexico’s fajitas which allow you to build your own handheld eats. Choose from tequila glazed steak or chicken, then add sauteed onions and peppers, jalapeno jam, sour cream and guac in whatever proportions taste best to you.

You scarf all of these down in a modern cowboy-ranch-meets-industrial-warehouse setting.

Bring your patience and a group of friends you really love (or at least a well-charged cell phone). This isn’t the place to come when you’re on a tight schedule or when you haven’t eaten since lunchtime yesterday. (If the kitchen is exceptionally slow, your server is likely to offer a round of shots or some chips & guac to help take the sting out of your wait.)

If you are in a rush, though, come for Happy Hour and stick to bar snacks like nachos which do come out of the kitchen expeditiously, and tasty cocktails like the jalapeno-mint margarita.


Special thanks to Sina and Matt Morin for eating and drinking like champs, and for helping us unlock the mysteries of the cave. We would have been lost without you.

The Spotlight:

What is this?

(sponsored message)

Subscribe to Core Detroit

Get the best of Detroit in your inbox.

Welcome to

We see it’s your first time! Thanks for stopping by. Sign up below to get the best of Detroit sent straight to your inbox!

Welcome to

Thanks for stopping by! Sign up below to get the best of Detroit sent straight to your inbox.

The Core Detroit Shop

Holiday Shopping

Use code “holiday2014” for 10% off!

The Core Detroit Shop

Subscribe to Core Detroit

Get the best of Detroit in your inbox.