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July 15, 2019

  • 225 W. Main Street
  • Mendon, MI 49072
  • (269) 496-9636
  • Website
  • Menu

J and I both got the 4th of July off but we both had to go back to work on the 5th.  The kids’ daycare was closed so we needed J’s parents to watch the kids.  We were at their house in St. Joseph County anyway for the 4th so J and I spent the night, got up early, and drove back to Kalamazoo to go to work.

She got out early and I, of course, had to work late.  She waited for me to go back to her parents house for the weekend.  We figured we’d stop for dinner somewhere along the way since it was just the two of us.

I was thinking of a couple places in Three Rivers that have opened recently but J came up with a better idea.  There’s a Mexican place in Mendon we pass every time we go to her parents and we always say, “we should stop there sometime.”

That place is Viva!  It’s on Main Street in Mendon just on the edge of downtown across the street from the Farmer’s Market.  The building looks like it used to be a house right on the St. Joseph River but it has been used for as a restaurant for several years now.  I believe Hornets Bar & Grill was the business in there before Viva! took over. 

The restaurant boasts two floors of dining so even though the Market parking lot across the street looked full, there were plenty of tables when we walked in.  A group of eight in front of us was directed towards the lower level which is down a flight of stairs when you walk in.  Something was mentioned about a play area for the kid but we didn’t go down there and check it out since we didn’t have kids with us.

The dining room when you first walk is down a hallway and past a set of stairs that lead to a third level that was roped off.  The theme of the restaurant is a Tex-Mex cantina and they use tile floors, string lights, and brightly painted wall hangings on grey walls to pull that off.

The bar area is tucked into what almost looks like it’s own room.  There’s only a few seats around the L-Shaped bar that boasts a few craft beers among the usual suspects.

We passed all the way through this area to the second level patio.  There are four tables on the wood deck with black wrought iron railings.  It was warm but the large umbrellas and deck overhang from the third deck provided enough shade to make it comfortable.


The patio overlooks the St. Joseph River as it runs through downtown Mendon.  They have a couple of posts near the shoreline where boats can tie off.  We saw two of them pull up while we were eating.

We were given a drink list when we sat down.  There were options but on warm nights, I like to stick to something I know and love.  I picked a Two-Hearted Ale which is served in bottle form.  The waitress offered a glass but I declined.  The bottle was fine.

J went a little more along theme and ordered The House margarita.  She was never asked if she wanted it frozen or not but it came frozen and that made her happy.  She got two of them which is always the sign she likes it.

When we sat down, the waitress followed us out with a basket of tortilla chips and two dips.  The chips are the light and airy kind that are perfect for dipping with just a little bit of salt on them.

The dip I went straight for was the salsa.  It’s a delicious, chilled, fresh salsa with a heavy tomato base.  There were chunks of all the usual salsa suspects but there was no flavor overpowering the tomatoes.

The other dip J and I both mistook for queso and wondered why it tasted like beans.  When the waitress asked if we wanted more, she asked if we wanted more Bean Dip and we were both like, “oooooh..That’s why it tastes like beans.”  It was smoother than what I typically associate with bean dip so I think that threw me.  We went through two bowls of it though even if we didn’t know what it was at first.

We both chose tacos for dinner.  I did the Fremont Street Tacos.  The owners lived in work for Vegas for a while so I assume these tacos have some ties to their time there.  The traditional street tacos are corn tortillas, choice of meat (I picked steak….duh), cilantro, and onion.  The meat was big chunks of seasoned, tender beef and it was topped with quite a few raw white onions.  I’ve grown to like a little onion but not a lot.  I pulled a lot of it off because I was to taste the cilantro and meat when I eat these kind of tacos.  Once I got them the way I like them, they were delicious and I wanted more.  I did have a pretty unique option for a side from a Mexican restaurant though.  I passed on the usual beans and rice and went with the french fry option.  As someone who’s not a super adventerous eater, I love this.  I get the best of both worlds with delicious tacos and a side I know I’m going to eat.

J’s pick was the Guacamole Tacos.  This vegetarian option is guacamole, refried beans, queso fresco, sour cream, lettuce, and pico de gallo.  She was given the choice of flour or corn tortillas.  She picked corn because she was thinking corn would be hard tacos but that was not the case.  She’s not a big meat eater but not a vegetarian either.  She really liked this option because she got the main filling as something she really likes and got to enjoy tacos without them being meat.  She did the rice and beans as her side to keep things a little more traditional.

Our bill was a little under $40 before tip.  Service got a little slow at the end as our waitress got tied up with a larger party inside but it was a nice night out and we were enjoying our drinks so it wasn’t a huge deal.

Viva! is definitely an unexpected place in a small town like Mendon.  There’s not a huge immigrant community like you would expect to support a place like this.  Instead, it seems to be a place that people come to from all over the area to enjoy a more upscale, pub type atmosphere serving up delicious Tex-Mex food instead of the typical burgers and wings.


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