Grand opening: Isalita now serving Mexican food and cocktails in downtown Ann Arbor
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
Customers flocked to the restaurant Thursday evening, ordering a variety of tacos, nachos, small plates and one of Baru’s favorites: Hamachi with orange habanero sauce and lime granita.
“The opening went very well. I was really pleased with how both the kitchen staff and the serving staff performed after one day, I really couldn’t be happier,” he said.
The restaurant officially opens Friday at 5 p.m. and will serve only dinner for the first couple of months.
“I didn’t want this to feel like a cliche Mexican restaurant,” Baru said about the interior.
A giant mural of three men sitting on a bench in San Miguel de Allende welcomes customers to the restaurant, which is the same city where Baru and his wife got married. Part of Isalita is painted a lime green color, and light fixtures are made of old berry-picking baskets.
“This space needed to be different than Mani. I didn’t want anything on the menu to reflect what we’re doing right next door, and I didn’t want any of the design to reflect what we’re doing next door. I wanted it to be a standalone restaurant,” Baru said.
But Baru wants Isalita to leave its own mark on the Ann Arbor restaurant scene.
Many of the items on Isalita’s menu are small plates of traditional Mexican street food. Baru and his chef, Brendan McCall, spent time in Mexico getting inspiration. Some of Baru’s favorite menu items:
- Flautas with duck confit and poblano avocado sauce
- Tuna tostadas with morita chile crema
- Al pastor tacos with glazed pork belly and pickled pineapple
- Forest mushroom tacos
One of the biggest sellers during the soft opening, Baru said: “Guacamole — it’s excellent. You can’t go wrong with traditional, but the truffle guacamole is worth trying.”
Isalita has a full bar menu with beer, wine, margaritas and specialty cocktails. Restaurant hours: Closed Monday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.