#GrandNew Wolverine Tacos is Blending Traditional Tacos and World-wide Culinary Vibes with a Michigan Twist

If you love unique tacos (and who doesn’t?) Wolverine Tacos should be on your must try list. Recently opened in the Wyoming/Grand Rapids area this June, Wolverine Tacos promises to “change your perception of what a taco should be”. 

Wolverine Tacos | 1740 44th St SW Ste 1A, Wyoming, MI 49519

This fast-casual eatery was founded by Carol Johnson and operates based on her dream of opening a restaurant. While living in Texas, she fell in love with Latin American food, which gave her a greater appreciation of the cuisine. With an adoration of traditional tacos and other types of culinary eats, Jonson wanted to create non-traditional cuisine with nods to other culture’s fare and individual dietary needs, “delicious, fun food but has a menu that is flexible, regardless of dietary wants, needs or preferences.” 

And speaking of the menu, in addition to a variety of tacos, Wolverine Tacos also serves bowls, salads and sweets. When asked for favorites, Johnson says she would pick the Guinea Pig, a Peruvian inspired chicken taco that includes whipped sweet potatoes, aji Amarillo chile mayo, cabbage slaw, pico de gallo and pickled Fresno peppers served on a flour tortilla. “But don’t tell the others. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s {the other taco’s} feelings,” Johnson jokingly adds. 

As far as most popular tacos, Johnson receives many orders for ‘The Wolverine’ and the ‘Texas Crispy’ which are favorites due to their familiar flavorings. ‘The Dave’ is a strong contender, a no brainer considering its key ingredients are Cheetos and queso. The ‘Pad Thai’ and the ‘Islanders’ are others that are commonly ordered and are extremely unique–and tasty! 

And although the tacos aren’t what most people would think of as ‘traditional tacos’ Johnson explains that she doesn’t want to mislead anyone. When asked about naming the restaurant Wolverine Tacos, here’s what the owner had to say. “I was attempting to come up with a name that says, ‘hey, this is a Michigan girl making tacos’ in the hopes to avoid misguiding folks into thinking we were trying to be a ‘traditional’ Mexican restaurant.”

As far as the atmosphere in the restaurant, diners can expect a casual vibe. “I wanted the feel of the restaurant to be comfortable and inviting and not ‘commercial or corporate.” She goes on to explain that much of the painting in the restaurant was done by herself and her friends and family. The décor includes a variety of maps that represent the food’s global influence. She also has a map of Michigan that was created by her five nieces. A true family affair. 

The Wyoming/ Grand Rapids location is meaningful to Johnson. “I very much love the greater Grand Rapids area (size, restaurant scene, people, parks, summers, proximity to other great locations, etc.) and I felt that the area would be a welcoming and supportive venue for my first solo restaurant endeavor,” she says. 

Like so many other restaurants, Wolverine Tacos has faced challenges due to the pandemic. The lockdowns set her back a few months in her opening goal. She had signed her lease two months prior to the quarantine and found herself not knowing what to do when her plans were unexpectedly delayed.  

Instead of panicking, Johnson spent her time consulting with other restaurant owners to see how they were coping so she could prepare herself for what was to come. She also worked on perfecting her recipes and business model. “My time in the restaurant industry has taught me to think quickly and accept the fact that things rarely go as planned,” Johnson says. 

Now that she has been given the green light to open, Johnson is dedicated to making her restaurant into a COVID safe space. Wolverine Tacos enforces mask wearing for employees and diners and sanitizes surfaces frequently. They currently offer take out, curbside pickup and dine in.

Johnson has also faced challenges as a woman in the restaurant industry. “Being a female in a male dominated industry had its challenges, for sure, but I tried to never let that shape, define or change the work that I set out to do every day,” she explains. “I learned not to let other people’s preconceived notions about a woman’s role in the restaurant industry get in my way. People’s misconceptions are their problem, not mine. I tried, instead, to look at my challenges as learning opportunities to improve my knowledge and abilities. Vodka sometimes helped as well.”

When asked about the future of Wolverine Tacos, Johnson says, “My hope is that we establish ourselves in the community as a trustworthy, go-to place where people can find great food & hospitality. That’s the professional answer. My secret answer is that I hope to create a small restaurant empire in the region where work doesn’t feel like work and I can hopefully afford to retire one day. Oh, and take a vacation at some point,” she adds with a laugh. 

With a great sense of humor and a terrific attitude, Johnson and Wolverine Tacos are destined to be a destination for the foodie adventurer and a staple in the Grand Rapids community. Be sure to stop in for a taco, then let us know which one is your favorite!