A Southwest Detroit couple is bringing a taste of Mexico to the North End.
Julie and Jason Stevens have been previewing their upcoming Mexican restaurant through pop-up events this month at 9425 John R. With options ranging from family-inspired comfort food to health-conscious vegan choices, the husband-and-wife team has been previewing their menu for the community before they open their permanent location this year.
Steven Harris, who owns the row of retail storefronts on John R and is part owner in the business, says he got the idea to open the restaurant after connecting with Jason and Julie Stevens, who were already operating a catering business before getting involved with the restaurant. He had a vacancy, plus he’s always on the lookout for good food.
“A lot of my friends and neighbors and business associates have always been looking for food to eat and in the North End,” says Harris, who is also the founder of Rebound Construction. “We’ve always been traveling to Southwest Detroit to have our tacos, authentic tacos, and Mexican food … I really loved Julie’s food. So I started having a dialogue with her and her husband, Jason, about partnering up and doing an authentic Mexican restaurant in the North End.”
Julie and Jason Stevens, founders of Detroit Loves Tacos
Julie Stevens, who is also the head chef, based her menu on her family’s traditional recipes from the Guanajuato region, as well as the food she had growing up in Southwest Detroit, where the couple still lives.
“I don’t put anything in front of people that I wouldn’t serve to my family,” Julie Stevens says.
The self-taught cook finds joy in serving others and takes pride in her food. “I just love to see people’s reactions when they take their first bite of the tacos … I enjoy making people happy. For me, food is love, food is comfort, and that’s what I’m glad I’m bringing to the neighborhoods and to that area.”
Detroit Loves Tacos’ menu is divided into two sections — the comfort side and the conscious side. On the comfort side of the menu, people can order filling things like al pastor, frijoles charros, Mexican sandwiches, different kinds of chicken and beef tacos, and what Julie Stevens calls “mom’s rice” — which is based on a recipe handed down by her mom. They also make their own salsas, which are made from vegetables and chiles they grow themselves.
On the conscious side, there are healthier and vegan options like cauliflower tacos and spinach enchiladas — healthy options that the North End neighborhood would be interested in.
Harris points out next-door neighbor The Pink Elephant is an eco-friendly store featuring healthy products, which complements Detroit Loves Tacos’ health-conscious mission.
“We’re trying to help keep the neighborhood healthy,” Harris says.
The pop-up events, which were on Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 19, attracted many people from the community, which gave the owners a positive outlook on the restaurant’s opening. Both pop-ups had several items off the menu available, and they’re already building a loyal clientele, Julie Stevens says.
“We last did a pop-up on Saturday, and we had three officers, Detroit police officers, and they ended up sending whoever was on duty at that time — we had six squad cars pull up. Everybody got out to eat after the three officers ate. So, it was pretty cool to see that, and know that my food drew those people to come,” she says.
Harris estimates Detroit Loves Tacos will have its grand opening within 90 days. In that time, he and the Stevenses are preparing the space, both indoors and out, to welcome customers. The restaurant will be takeout style with indoor and outdoor seating available, and it will have a Día De Los Muertos theme.
“We’re putting the steel container construction on the side of the building to do an aluminum expansion for COVID, or just when it’s the summer and springtime,” Harris says. “We’re going to have it where you can walk from [the restaurant] space into a big steel container and pop it open, and it actually has seating outside, and you can have sort of like an outdoor little dining area made out of steel shipping containers.”
Based on the success of the pop-ups, the owners believe the restaurant will be met with a lot of positive feedback when they open later this year.
“Just [based on] the reception that we got from the people, because they'll walk in and be like ‘oh man, we don’t have to go all the way down to Southwest Detroit to get this food,’ ” Julie Stevens says. “I’m like ‘I brought it to you guys.’ It’s super exciting … bringing all of that to that neighborhood is exciting.”