Cancun Mexican Grill
The building, empty since 2009 when Signature Grill closed its doors, reopened in mid-December. It may look like the old place from the outside, but its windows, now painted to resemble Mexican adobes, hint that changes are afoot. Once inside, the grays of winter disappear. Brightly colored murals, by Lansing artist Domingo Gamboa adorn every available swath of wall space, depicting Mexican farmers, adobes, and Mayan temples, all beneath vast blue skies and vibrant orange and yellow sunshine. The tables, chairs, and booths are hand carved and hand painted by artisans of La Candona, a family-owned furniture-making business in Tonala, Mexico, not far from Guadalajara. Each piece is unique, with carvings of tropical birds, flowers, cacti, fish, or farmers, and giant sunbursts appear to rise off the high-backed booths, offering in relief what Michigan winters don't: brilliant color.
The first pair of co-managers, a husband-and-wife team, lasted about six weeks before realizing their commute from Adrian along with the restaurant's long hours left them little to no time to see their three young children. "I feel for them. My children are grown. I could never have done this work when mine were little," said Maria Vera, who now manages the restaurant with her husband, Lorenzo. (Lorenzo's brother, Carmelo Vera, owns another Cancun Mexican Grill in the Lansing area.) When we talked to Maria in late February, they had just completed a whirlwind, three-week transition that included relocating from Chicago without missing a beat at the restaurant.