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Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

La Fuente Expands West to Wauwatosa

Second location offers same menu, fun atmosphere

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La Fuente represents one of Milwaukee’s great restaurant success stories. When it opened its original location on Sixth Street, across from Conejito’s, it was one of just a handful of Mexican restaurants in the city. La Fuente soon relocated a block away and over the years grew into the cavernous place it is today. Recently, a second location was added in Wauwatosa.

La Fuente’s new home takes the place of the former El Matador, which was also a Mexican restaurant. The bullfighting motif from El Matador remains as part of the decor. The two main dining rooms have bars and ornamental tile floors. One has a fountain in the center, which is appropriate since “fuente” means “fountain” in Spanish. The other boasts an adobe fireplace and a large mural of a matador.

The menu is a carbon copy of the one found at the other location. In fact, with the exception of the vegetarian entrees, it seems that little has changed in the last two decades. Along with the classics, you will find an inserted page of house specialties with items like chicken with Oaxacan mole, fish tacos, and pork in salsa verde.

One of La Fuente’s longtime hits is caldo de camaron ($4.10-$12), which is served slightly warm with chopped onion, cilantro, tomato and bits of avocado. The medium shrimp are plentiful and the broth has a sweet flavor, which is unusual in a Mexican caldo de camaron. The three sizes are a clever touch—the largest option is enough for an entrée, and the smallest is perfect for a starter.

The ceviche tostada ($3.15), another of La Fuente’s early novelties, consists of red cod with chopped onion, tomato and cilantro, topped with avocado slices. Ceviche is now commonplace, but this dish still holds its own with its tart lime juice marinade.

La Fuente also makes a nice guacamole ($4.45-$6.95). The avocado is just chunky enough, and a hint of tomato complements the predominating flavor of cilantro.

The familiar entrees include tacos, tostadas, burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas and chile relleno—items that can be found on every Mexican-American menu.

Be sure to check out the tamales ($9.15), a plate of three different tamales wrapped in corn husks. One tamale includes a filling of chicken flavored with a sweet chocolate mole; another one also has chicken, but comes with a mild green sauce; and the other is filled with cheese and slices of jalapeño peppers. The tamales may not be great, but they are definitely a decent option.

Steak picado ($12.10) offers thin slices of steak sautéed with onions and peppers in a red sauce that may be ordered mild or spicy. The hotter version is spicy enough; otherwise, the sauce is nothing special. The pork plate lunch ($8) is actually better. The sauce is more vibrant and the pieces of meat are very tender.

Camaron ala diabla ($13.35) features shrimp with a mild or spicy red sauce. The shrimp are served with lots of fried potatoes that don’t really belong in the picture.

Among the specials you will find tacos al pastor ($8.55). The tacos are filled with pieces of pork in a chile marinade that includes bits of pineapple, onion and cilantro. The marinade could use more chile flavor, but the pineapple makes this a sweet and pleasant treat.

Entrees and plates typically include rice, beans and a simple salad of lettuce with a flavorless slice of tomato. Skip the tomatoes when ordering the steak tacos ($10.30), as they get in the way of the nice flavor of the marinated meat.

Despite a menu that could stand some updates, La Fuente continues to draw crowds. You will find decent margaritas alongside a comprehensive Mexican beer list. The service is friendly and efficient, and the food comes flying out of the kitchen.

La Fuente West

9155 W. Bluemound Road

(414) 771-9900

$$

Credit Cards: MC, VS

ilovelafuente.com

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