Latin American street food parks in Downtown Market


Mario Cascante, left, and partner Hector Lopez are co-founders of Tacos El Cuñado, a restaurant that sells Latin American street food. Courtesy Downtown Market

A veteran restaurateur and his partner are ready to serve Grand Rapids the many distinct flavors of Latin America at Downtown Market later this month.

Latin menu

Founded by Mario Cascante and Hector Lopez, Tacos El Cuñado will join the market's indoor Market Hall, with an offering of tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas, as well as other Latin American-inspired street food.

The popular and well-known Mexican favorites will be joined by a rotating selection of specials from Costa Rica and other Central and South American countries.

There will also be a thoughtful selection of Latin American grocery items, prepared meats and meals to go.

“Everyone is familiar with the taco. It is the quintessential Mexican street food, but every country has its own version of street food, and we are eager to educate and inform of the complexity of Latin American culture,” said Cascante, co-founder of Tacos El Cuñado and Costa Rican by birth.

While the Market Hall venture is the first restaurant for the pair as business partners, Lopez has been in the restaurant business since the age of 15 and has owned many restaurants in Texas, Kansas and Michigan. This is Cascante’s first restaurant. The two were driven together by a mutual passion for food.

Local know-how

Tacos El Cuñado’s menu will follow the same processes that have inspired generations of Latin American chefs and rely heavily on fresh and local ingredients.

The partners have committed to sourcing locally made tortillas, beans and as much Michigan-grown produce as possible.

Cascante and Lopez also plan to partner with other Market Hall vendors to create items such as “Tacos Del Mercado,” which will feature familiar ingredients sourced from within the market, with different preparation.

“Like many preparers of authentic Mexican food, Hector was ‘fresh and local’ before ‘fresh and local’ became cool,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Market. “Visitors to the Market Hall will find a constantly changing menu, which will introduce them to new flavors and experience new cultures.”  

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