Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MEXICAN

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3 Magueyes
2423 S. Sixth St.

Mexican seafood is the specialty of this extensive menu. Red snapper Veracruz differs from tradition but is a lovely deep-fried whole fish topped with avocado salad. Most dishes are conservatively seasoned, but there are items that will challenge even the most dedicated chile fan. The camarones ala diabla are very fiery, while the beef lomo, with an arbol chile sauce, is positively incendiary. (J.B.) $$. CC. FB. 383-5161


BelAir Cantina

1935 N. Water St.

The BelAir Cantina is quite a place to be seen with its curved roof and large banks of windows. It turns nearly open-air on warmer days. The menu is that of a Mexican taqueria, focused on tacos, tostadas and burritos. They are sold singly which allows for variety. Among the best are pork carnitas, carne asada and tilapia Baja style. The food is authentic Mexican touches with a bit of California. Stop in and try out the latest trend—Korean beef tacos. (J.B.) $. CC. OD. SB. Handicap access. 226-2245


Botanas Restaurant

816 S. Fifth St.

Those who like milder Mexican cooking, but still want variety, will enjoy Botanas. Chicken enchiladas and pork tamales are always good, and the tortilla soup is comforting. Camarones a la diabla have an abundance of shrimp, while the chiles espanoles are a delightful vegetarian dish in short supply at most Mexican restaurants. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. RS, FB, OD. 672-3755

Café Corazon
3129 N. Bremen St.

Café Corazon is a cozy little spot on a quiet Riverwest street. The menu is mainly Mexican and the items are simple. Meat fillings for tacos, burrito and enchiladas include chicken, chorizo, carne asada and mechada, a Venezuelan-style pulled beef. Vegetarians can choose soy chorizo, grilled vegetables or true vegan version. The star of the menu has to be the blue mussels in an interesting version incorporating chorizo and jalapenos. Café Corazon also serves a weekend brunch.  (J.B.) $-$$. CC. SB. 810-3941


Cafe El Sol

1028 S. Ninth St.

Located deep inside the United Community Center, El Sol's visibility is relatively low, even though it has its own plainly marked entrance. But anyone who loves Mexican and Puerto Rican food shouldn't overlook it. El Sol is notable for its daily Puerto Rican specials, but also serves up a fine selection of enchiladas, tacos, guacamole and tostadas. Try a breakfast of huevos rancheros or good old Yankee eggs, toast and bacon. The Friday fish fry buffet features live Latin music. Open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Friday 5-8:30 p.m. (D.L.) $. CC. FF. 384-3100 ext. 275


Cempazuchi Comida Brava

1205 E. Brady St.

The interior offers a hint of the menu with a colorful riot of Mexican handicrafts, most from Oaxaca. The splendid regional menu features a daily Oaxacan turkey mole, duck tacos al pastor and chicken pipian. The traditional soups please, as do the less-authentic lake perch tacos with tangy chipotle mayonnaise. The bar, with its fine tequila inventory, is a fun spot to sample finger food with fresh fruit margaritas. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC. OD, FB. RS. Handicap access. 291-5233


Chipotle Mexican Grill

600 E. Ogden Ave. 223-4710

3232 S. 27th St. 389-1380

15375 Bluemound Road, Brookfield, 262-796-0463

Chipotle's mission is to change the direction of America's favorite ethnic food and set an example for the food service industry. The menu retains the tastiness of familiar Mexican-American dishes while jettisoning anything unhealthy. The meat and dairy products come from animals that roam freely. Most everything is made from fresh ingredients, down to the lime in the margaritas. Guacamole is prepared several times daily from and the fresh-baked chips are among the best anywhere. (D.L.) $. CC. OD, B. Handicap access.


Cielito Lindo

739 S. Second St.

The dining room is a colorful Mexican fantasy with tropical Mexican murals on orange walls and a ceiling with a vivid blue sky and a giant eagle. Nobody will ever fall asleep in this room! The menu includes reasonably priced Mexican standards with decent chile rellenos. Items with salsa verde and salsa rojo are also worth a try. There are two dining areas, both with bars, and a patio. Though there are few items that are unique here, the cooking is sound and the prices reasonable. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB. OD. Handicap access.
649-0401

Coa

5750 N. Port Washington Road (Bayshore Town Center)

Coa serves “Mexican street food”—items like grilled sweet corn, tamales wrapped in banana leaf and an assortment of tacos. But Coa also has a sleek contemporary setting with a very cool bar that makes some excellent margaritas. The lime juice is fresh and tart, just like at the beach in Acapulco. The tacos can be traditional or playful. Combinations plates of three different tacos are offered. (J.B.) $$. CC. FB. Handicap access. 967-1451

El Beso
5030 S. 74th St.

The exterior is like a Technicolor ChiChi's, a large hacienda painted in blazing neon colors. The interior is a faux Mexican village with tables on several levels, a congenial bar, and outdoor patio seating. The food here is quite good—definitely not a ChiChi's clone. The menu features the usual tacos and enchiladas as well as spicy shrimp soup and sautéed steak strips in a blazingly hot arbol chile sauce. (J.B.) CC. Handicap access. 817-0362

El Cabrito
1100 S. 11th St.

The Cabrito name has been popularized around town by two vans serving lunch tacos. The mothership restaurant offers a wider range of spicy, authentic food including tacos, tortas, burritos, gorditas and tostadas. A wide variety of meats are used but there are also vegetarian options. The tacos al pastor are among the best in Milwaukee. (J.B.) $. CC. 385-9000


El Canaveral

2501 W. Greenfield Ave.

El Canaveral is set in a vintage Schlitz corner tavern. The interior is appealing with a front bar with beer tappers and a rear dining room with colorful Mexican decorations. A landscaped dining terrace is in the rear. The menu offers unpretentious Mexican fare with a nice grilled skirt steak, shrimp in several preparations and a large parrillada. Items of note are the codorniz (a Cornish game hen with a mild chile paste), the birria made with lamb and the delicious cactus paddle salad. (J.B.) $. CC. FB. 671-7118

El Fuego Mexican Restaurant
909 W. Layton Ave.

El Fuego is a jumbo-sized Mexican establishment, but the amenities are nice with an inviting bar plus an outdoor patio complete with palm trees and a cascading waterfall. The food ranges from above average to quite good. Guacamole is made on the spot and the shrimp cocktails large and a bit spicy.  Do try the chicken with mole poblano. This kitchen has an excellent recipe for this chocolate-based sauce. Prices are affordable, except for the premium tequilas, of course. (J.B.) $$. CC. FB. Handicap access. 455-3534

El Local
1801 S. 11th St.

El Local's reputation rises from authentic Mexican tacos and other simple items, including exceptional tacos el pastor and carnitas. The birria, a goat meat soup, is as hearty as a stew. Seafood varies from the jumbo Mexican cocktails to a mixed seafood soup and whole red snappers in a classic preparation. (J.B.) $-$$. Handicap access. 389-9789

El Senorial
1901 S. 31st St.

The menu is standard Mexican fare, but the selection is broad and the quality consistent. Try chorizo tacos with a spicy punch or a big platter of shrimp fajitas. The house specialty is parrillada, a tabletop grill with an assortment of meats. Start the meal with a good ceviche and finish with vanilla flan. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB. Handicap access. 385-9506

Fajitas Grill
1673 N. Farwell Ave.

Fajitas are clearly the specialty and are offered in many ways. They are made with chicken, pork, beef and even seafood or veggie. For the lighter appetite, try tacos made the traditional Mexican way with chopped cilantro and onions (no lettuce, tomato or American cheese). The corn tortillas are made on site and make quite a difference. (J.B.) $$. FF. 273-1687

Fiesta Garibaldi
821 W. Lincoln Ave., 645-4552

2301 Silvernail Road, Waukesha, 262-446-0889

310 Milwaukee St., Johnson Creek, 920-699-8989

Prepare for complete sensory overload...but in a good way. Eye-catching colors and recognizable sea creatures consume the entire space of the West Side location. It's like an adult, upgraded version of the Little Mermaid meets the wonderful world of sports and Latin allure. And just like the eccentric décor, the food is heavily saturated with bright hues and voluptuous seafood dishes. Fiesta Garibaldi is sure to tickle the senses. (N.P.) $-$$. CC. FB. OD. Handicap Access.


Habanero's Mexican Kitchen

869 N. Mayfair Road, 607-9025

3900 W. Brown Deer Road, 355-5680

Mild, medium or spicy? No matter what your preference, take advantage of the tableside guacamole. Fully ripe avocados, diced tomatoes, chopped onions, fresh squeezed limes, all ground and geared up to accompany the chips and salsa amidst  your table. And if the dip is too spicy, try washing it down with a margarita. Salt or no salt? Either way your options here are endless, generous and reasonably priced. (N.P.) $$. CC. FB. OD. Handicap access.

Haute Taco
18905 W. Capitol Drive

(Sendik's Towne Center)

The humble taco has never had it so good. Though the tortillas are smaller than many in Milwaukee, the ingredients make Haute Taco stand out. Pork carnitas is familiar but try the slow-cooked duck or the beef short ribs. Consider starting with a small Caesar salad or elote, flavorful pieces of corn on the cob. The bar is a casual spot for a margarita or two. The quality is high and the prices low—an unbeatable combination. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB. Handicap access. (262) 781-1110

Hector's on Delaware
3040 S. Delaware Ave.

Building on their success in Wauwatosa, the casual and friendly Hector's on Delaware Avenue in Bay View offers extensive brunch, lunch and dinner menus chock-full of traditional Mexican and southwestern dishes such as chicken mole, puerco en adobo, burritos and enchiladas, plus a few surprises, like the portabella and asparagus enchiladas and a spicy take on eggs Benedict. Vegetarians will find plenty to choose from. Even better, the beans and rice are lard-free. (L.K.) $$. CC. Handicap access. SB. FB. 755-7870

Jalapeno Loco
5067 S. Howell Ave. 483-8300

10401 N. Cedarburg Road, (262) 238-1300

Jalapeno Loco has a menu for everyone. If steak tacos and chicken enchiladas are your thing, you'll be just as satisfied as the person who orders chiles en nogadas or the mole Oaxaqueno. Try the pork ribs in salsa verde, a tart sauce with a spicy kick. The setting is casual with a large fireplace and a bar serving fine gold margaritas. Seasonal specials make this one of the most distinctive local Mexican restaurants. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. OD, FB.


La Canoa

1520 W. Lincoln Ave.

Mexican seafood is the specialty; the dining room is a riot of color with chairs carved with images of every sea creature imaginable. The bar resembles the hull of a boat. La Canoa's menu has everything from oysters to langostinos, whole red snappers and even frog legs. The seafood cocktails are huge and there are many soup options. Portions tend to be generous and freebies include fish ceviche plus an empanada. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB. Handicap access. 645-1140

La Fuente
625 S. Fifth St. 271-8595

9155 W. Bluemound Road
771-9900
Tacos, burritos and enchiladas rule the menu here. Modest prices always draw a crowd. The menu offers a decent shrimp soup and camaron a la diabla for those who like their food very fiery. This is a fun spot for cerveza-swigging groups. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB, OD. LT. Handicap access.


La Perla

734 S. Fifth St.

With the restaurant's expansive tequila selection, weekend shuttle bus to and from college campuses and mechanical bull shaped like a hot pepper, La Perla's food is sometimes overshadowed by the party. These silly surroundings, however, house some surprisingly authentic Mexican cuisine. Entrees are marked by robust sauces and served on overflowing plates. Of course, if you just want a margarita to wash down your nachos, you can get that, too. (E.R.) $. CC. OD, FB. LT. 645-9888


Los Burritos Tapatios

4350 S. 27th St.

Tapatios offers both south-of-the-border classics—enchiladas, chimichangas, tamales, tacos and, of course, its namesake giant burritos—as well as seafood variations such as camarones (shrimp) and tilapia served with various sauces and vegetables. The horchata, so hard to find in our local array of Mexican eateries, is heavenly with a dusting of cinnamon. Quaint and diner-like, Los Burritos Tapatios is decorated with strings of colored lights and lively pastoral paintings that lend even casual outings a festive air. (S.M.) $$. CC: All major. RS, OD, FB. Handicap access. 282-7707

Mi Perla Tapatia
2222 S. 13th St.

This casual eatery may be short on atmosphere, but the kitchen knows how to make a good salsa. Meats are grilled with a choice of salsas. Seafood is a specialty, with the red snapper especially good in a chipotle sauce. Tacos al pastor, marinated pork with a hint of chile flavor, is about as good as anywhere locally (just add chopped onion and cilantro). The setting may not be much, but Mi Perla Tapatia is very kind to the wallet. (J.B.) $. CC. Handicap access. 383-3102


Quiote

5814 W. Bluemound Road

If you remember the fine Mexican menu at the former Oaxaca Grill, then you'll enjoy Quiote, which has the same chef/owner. This means intense moles made onsite, tasty shrimp tacos and chile rellenos that simply are the best. Quiote is a small place, with just five tables. Take a chance on getting a seat and be rewarded with some fine Mexican fare.  (J.B.) $-$$. CC.  NA. 698-2708

Revolucion
2901 W. Morgan Ave.

The setting is modest but the menu is ambitious covering many regions of Mexico. The house specialty is fajitas prepared with surprising skill. The menu offers 10 different tacos, including seared yellowfin tuna and tinga de pollo. Entrees include Yucatecan cochinita pibil (pulled pork in a citrus marinade) and a fine lamb shank prepared with three different types of chiles. Breakfast is also served here at very moderate prices. This ranks with the very best local Mexican restaurants. (J.B.) $$. CC: MC, VS. Handicap access. 383-4108


Rio West Cantina

2730 N. Humboldt Blvd.

Although the menu is small with the most basic Mexican fare, the quality is good, buttressed by an impressive tequila and Mexican beer list.  If you are in the mood for guacamole with chips, steak tacos and perhaps an order of chicken tamales, this place will work. The dining room is light, airy and attractive. Amenities include a children's playroom and off-street parking. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB. OD. Handicap access. 562-5540

Riviera Maya
2258 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Riviera Maya is spacious with a contemporary Mayan-inspired décor. The menu is centered on six different moles served with a choice of four meat and two vegetarian options. Entrees and sandwiches include a cup of the excellent sopa de tortilla, an inspired version of a traditional Mexican soup. (J.B.)  $$. CC. FB. SB. Handicap access. 294-4848

Rudy's Mexican Restaurant
1122 N. Edison St.

Rudy's remains popular, with a menu focused on tacos, burritos, tostadas and an especially good chile relleno. Some items are grilled, including chuletas rancheras, a pair of pork chops. Quick service and ample seating make this a good pick for families and larger groups. (J.B.) $-$$. CC. FB, OD. 223-1122


Senor Sol

8129 W. Greenfield Ave., 456-9955

10401 N. Port Washington Road, (262) 478-0141

Meshed between a motel and surrounding residential area, Senor Sol's Mequon location offers a welcoming menu in a quaint diner-like setting with a multi-colored piñata dangling from above. Senior Sol offers the sort of American-influenced, Mexican meal with all the colors one expects to see and a taste as equally satisfying. (N.P.)  (J.B.) $-$$. CC. OD. Handicap access.


Villa's Restaurant

2522 W. Greenfield Ave.

This small eatery has a big menu and even larger servings, plus some interesting Oaxacan specialties. The only mole is a mole negro, delicious with chicken or pork. The gorditas are delicious with handmade corn cakes and several choices of filling. More unusual is the tlayuda, a folded tortilla the size of a small pizza with abundant filling. While the décor is basic the quantity and quality of the food more than compensate. Simple margaritas are available as are a few Mexican beers. (J.B.) $. CC. Handicap access. 672-1943