Encuentro brings Authentic Guatemalan Cuisine to the Heart of Ypsi

. April 1, 2016.

Encuentro Latino Restaurant

228 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
734-483-1727 | 
facebook.com/encuentro-latino-restaurant
10am-8pm Monday-Friday | 8am-8pm Saturday & Sunday

Plenty of patrons were bummed when The Wolverine Grill at 228 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti closed down after over 50 years in business. But disappointed eaters can take heart, a new restaurant from chef/owner Manuel DePaz has taken over the space, adding some Central American flair to the Ypsilanti food scene.

After working at Mediterraneo in Ann Arbor for 13 years, DePaz — along with his wife, brother, sister-in-law, and other family members — opened Encuentro in December 2015. DePaz, inspired in part by  Ypsilanti’s thriving Guatemalan community (playfully nicknamed “Guatemalita” according to DePaz), serves up a mix of authentic Guatemalan food, Americanized dishes, and Mediterranean classics.

Our group of three went on a quiet Thursday night. DePaz has kept The Wolverine Grill tables and counter space but spruced up the location with new paint and decorations from Guatemala lining the walls (as well as Telemundo soap operas on the television). 

We started with Crispy Chicken Tacos ($5.50), which were really more like taquitos, with a crunchy pickled coleslaw that paired well with the salted chicken. The tomato sauce, the real star of the dish, is prepared fresh by DePaz every day.

From there we moved on to the Garnachas ($6.95), three small tortillas filled with ground beef, the same pickled cabbage and tomato sauce, and the Pupusas de Chicharron, thick tortillas filled with shredded pork and served with coleslaw. We finished the main course with the Churrascos, ($11.95), beef with rice, beans, avocado, scallions, tomato sauce and tortillas. The Garnachas were similar to tostadas and the perfect sharing size for three people, and the Pupusas had a wonderful filling that popped out of the stuffed tortillas with a satisfying squeeze of our forks.

The beef on the Churrascos were wonderfully seasoned, blended with the beans and veggies to cut the spice level. The tortillas that came with the Churrascos were different from the rest of the meal, fluffy, thick-cut, and clearly handmade. It would have be nice to have the fresh tortillas with all the dishes— we finished the Churrascos off with a fork, but more tortillas would have been welcome.

For dessert, we chose the creme brulee, one of Chef DePaz’s specialties from his time at Mediterraneo, and we weren’t disappointed. The fresh vanilla beans inside the brulee added texture and a delicious twist on the standard classic.

Service was fast and friendly and clearly lived up to the “family-style” label (DePaz’s sister-in-law was our server). There’s no alcohol service, but we enjoyed an orange-mango Jarritos and Horchata to stay in the Central American spirit. We’ll definitely be back to try out the plantains, as well as the breakfast options For a taste of Guatemala, there’s no better spot in Washtenaw County than Encuentro.

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