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Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012

Discover Terra, Another Mexican Gem

New restaurant stands out with unique menu

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Any Mexican restaurant that opens near the intersection of Sixth Street and National Avenue had better be prepared for some stiff competition. Within two blocks are heavyweights like La Fuente, La Perla and Botanas. Terra, a Mexican restaurant that opened here a few months ago, is proving to be a worthy contender.

Terra is smaller than its counterparts, and the interior is more contemporary than Mexican (there is not a single poster promoting Corona products). Tables and chairs are fashioned from rustic wood, and tabletops are made of tile mosaics in earth tones. Even the barstools feature ornamental iron. In its décor, Terra is refreshingly different.

The menu is also unique. Although the restaurant opens at 11 a.m., diners will find many American breakfast items like omelettes and pancakes (perhaps intended for the late-night crowd, as the restaurant closes at 2 a.m.). Sandwiches include burgers and a Philly cheesesteak. Even chicken souvlaki and a Greek salad manage to find their way onto this menu.

Be sure to dig a little deeper and find the Mexican items, which are the ones that really stand out. For example, you will find a grilled cactus salad, many Mexican standards and even a few items from the Yucatan.

A basket of chips and salsa arrives immediately. The mild salsa is a standard version of fresh tomato, onion and cilantro. But better things are soon to come. Even items like enchiladas are special at Terra. Enchiladas verdes ($9.95) feature a tart sauce of tomatillos and chile pepper. They are topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, onion, avocado and flavorful cheese. The choices for meat filling are chicken, ground beef and slow-cooked pork. The corn tortillas here taste like they are homemade—quite superior to most—and the overall presentation is attractive.

A dish that varies widely in the Milwaukee area is camarones a la diabla ($12.95), shrimp in a hot chile sauce. It varies according to the type of chile pepper used. Many local places use the chile de arbol, which packs a lot of heat. Here the sauce is more golden, the color of a habanero pepper sauce. The shrimp, cooked with onions and yellow and green sweet bell peppers, are served over fried potatoes. This is a fine version of camarones a la diabla, spicy but not ridiculous.

Be sure to consider the tamales Yucatecos ($9.95), a pair of tamales filled with pork, chiles, onions and herbs and then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. They are topped with pink marinated onions and served with a side of salsa. The salsa consists of roasted tomato laced with habanero pepper. This excellent option is one you won't often find in the Milwaukee area.

Everybody will like the tostadas de tinga ($9.95), featuring those great corn tortillas topped with black beans, gently seasoned pulled chicken, cheese, sour cream, avocado and hints of lettuce. Chiles rellenos ($9.95) are a pair of cheese-filled poblano peppers fried in a thin egg batter. The spicy sauce has tomatoes, onions and slices of jalapeno peppers. Most entrees also include a side plate of rice and beans.

The bar attracts customers with its margaritas and mojitos. Another bonus is that the list of Mexican beers is comprehensive, even including Bohemia and Sol.

Explore the Mexican items on the menu and you will find some excellent choices. Terra is a gem.

Terra Restaurant Bar
624 W. National Ave.
(414) 763-7309
$-$$
Handicap Accessible
terrarestaurantmilwaukee.com