Tia Helita’s has been a Flint staple since 1970 when the restaurant
first opened on Fenton Road in Flint. Growing up on the east side of
Flint, in Burton, my family frequently went to both of the locations,
the other being on Richfield Road near Western Highway. Some of my
favorite dishes from when I was little are still my favorite dishes
today. The chips and salsa are still exactly the same today as they were
years ago, and I found out they still use the same recipe from when the
restaurant first opened. I can even remember when it was in the small
white building on Richfield, with parking behind the restaurant and with
an entrance through the kitchen…just like if we were going to Grandma’s
house. Tia Helita’s has always had that safe, family-welcoming
I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting down with Monica Reed, one of
the third generation owners of Tia Helita’s. Monica has been working in
the restaurant since she was 13 years old. She told me that “the best
thing about a family business is having your family be part of it.
Although it can be hard at times, you always know your family has your
back.” My friend Tom Hicks joined me for lunch; his 46 year- old,
Flint-based company has always enjoyed catered lunches from Tia
Helita’s, and the restaurant also hosted their company Christmas party
those who don’t know, Tia Helitas has a full, authentic Mexican menu,
which includes prime T-Bone Steaks, and their famous BBQ Ribs. Many
patrons don’t realize that the BBQ sauce is homemade, the recipe
including Dos Equis Beer and other special spices to make it sweet yet
savory. There is full bar service with amazing margaritas and a full
line of domestic and imported beers. Once the lunch rush was over,
Monica was able to sit down with us so we could ask her a couple
questions about her family business. Some of them included the
What is your favorite dish to serve?
“The fajitas, hands down, are one of the most popular dishes we serve
because they come with all the sides and include chips and salsa.
Another one of my favorites is the Carnita Taco Dinner which [consists
of] pork taco, topped with Piico de Gallo and cilantro, and served
with rice, beans or famous stew beef, Carne Guisada.”
What is your favorite dish to make?
“I love the fish tacos and the shrimp tacos! It’s funny because when I
am talking to a table [of customers,] explaining some of the dishes they
have not tried, the guests will listen to me, but they always go back
to order their favorites. It’s hard for people to try new things when
they have their minds set on one of our favorites. But if they do
venture out and try it, they love it, and it usually becomes part of
their new favorite list.”
What dish do the customers rave about?
“The Wet Beef Burrito, hands down. It’s made with our Carne Guisada and
our guests absolutely love it. We start cooking it every day at 7:30 AM,
along with all our food. Everything is made fresh each morning.”
What is the oldest recipe or dish, one which has been served continuously since 1970?
“My grandparents opened the restaurant with the exact same Carne
Guisada, Chips and Salsa recipes we still use today. Those definitely
hold a special place in our kitchen and in the hearts of our guests.”
What is one thing you’d like people to know about your restaurant?
“[At] our restaurant, we welcome everyone like family. We want to have
the same feeling and atmosphere as our grandparents did years ago.
Although many of our guests come back for their favorite dishes, we are
continuously introducing new items on the menu or in the bar. As a
result, some of those new items have become new favorites, such as our
seafood burrito and seafood enchilada.
Oh! Another thing I keep meaning to add to the menu is sliced avocado.
Our guests know they can order guacamole, but they don’t know they can
order sliced avocados, which are an amazing addition to any of their
Can you rent out your restaurant for parties?
“Of course! We have two banquet rooms, which seat 35-40 people and also
have our large dining area which seats 80 people for big parties. We
also have the ability to host fundraisers for different groups. We
believe that it is important to give back to the community which
supports us… that is one of our core values.”
What is something you’d like people to know about your catering?
“We can deliver the food right to your door or venue. We even have the
ability to stay onsite and service the food if you’d like. We also have
many guests who come and pick up food for parties they are having, from
First Communions, to Super Bowl [ functions] or even a low key Friday
Family Game Night.”
“Many of our patrons have become family and that’s what make us happy;
we pride ourselves in good Food, Drinks, Family and Friends!” Monica
Reed, 3rd Generation Owner of Tia Helitas.