By Irma Maribel Andrade
Photo credit: Alejandro Ugalde
La Jalisciense Supermercado Y Taqueria, located at 3923 Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48216, bridges two worlds. It is a family-owned and operated business that implements business customs found in Mexico, and throughout Latin America, here in Southwest Detroit with a new
and young vision.
José Vargas Jr (22) is the eldest of four children and the chef that day at La Jalisciense Supermercado y Taqueria. He remembers the day his family picked him and his siblings up from school with the news that “ya encontramos algo”, “we found something”. That something turned out to be the family’s new business venture. Each member of the family contributes their talents towards the family business. The Vargas family embodies the belief that success is a community effort that requires many people coming together for a shared vision.
José chose this dish because la salsa ranchera, the sauce that tops the steak, is one of the first recipes he began to experiment with. Traditionally salsa ranchera is a runny and watery mixture however the sauce he used on the dish was thick and rich with chunks of sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes. It had a smokey complex taste that created an explosion of flavors with each bite and brought out the taste of the caramelized onions and steak. Created by José this sauce is unique to La Jalisciense.
José Manuel Vargas Sr, originally from San Ignacio Jalisco Mexico, bought the storefront business in 2011. He comes from a family of business owners and has owned and operated supermercados or grocery stores in various parts of Mexico. Since buying the business he has worked hard to constantly improve the family business, even building the indoor bar and tejaban (outdoor porch) himself!
Vargas Jr & Sr shared a common memory of walking into the store when they first bought it. They remember seeing and feeling the dust that had accumulated on the grocery shelves. Through hard work and dedication the entire Vargas family has brought new life into this business. They continue to innovate and think of ways that they can incorporate their Mexican culture and customs into the realities of running a business in the US.
Like most other restaurants the kitchen is the busiest place and gives you a unique glimpse behind the scenes. Waitstaff come in and out with dishes, other cooks worked on orders and prep for the day. Between cooking and joking with staff, Jose was singing along to the ranchera playing in the kitchen, El Hijo Desobediente by Antonio Aguilar.
A culinary arts student at Schoolcraft College José dreams of reconceptualizing Mexican food and wants people to see the variety and richness that Mexican food has to offer. Oftentimes when people think of authentic Mexican food they think of cheap food and this is something that José wants to change.
José made us Bistec Ranchero. It is sauteed beef with onions, topped with a tomato and pepper base sauce. This is typically a breakfast dish served with rice and beans, but can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
The family’s desire to own and run La Jalisciense has a unique fluidity. On the first Sunday it was open, José Manuel remembers making $280. Since then, they have come a long way. The Vargas family have a vision of the end goal and are willing to change course and modify as needed. While at the counter José Manuel Vargas Sr shared the story of how when they first started selling carnitas his youngest son, then 10 years old, volunteered to give out tacos de carnitas to passing customers as a sample. A common practice in Mexico, they quickly became the talk of Southwest and his son is still recognized as “el niño de las carnitas”. He shared this story to show how each of his children have helped the family business in their own way.
Irma Maribel Andrade is a born and raised Detroiter, she is passionate about “lifting others as you climb”. She is a daughter of immigrants from San Luis Potosi, Mexico and a first generation college graduate from UM-Ann Arbor currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work. When she is not studying, Irma spends her time gardening, crafting, advocating for social justice and being a wife & mom of two.