Restaurant review: Taqueria Azteca in Milwaukee
119 E Oklahoma Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Finding ourselves on Milwaukee’s South Side, we decided, based on a Yelp review I had seen, to try Taqueria Azteca at about 4:30 this afternoon — a rainy, windy Sunday. I was looking forward to some spicy, satisfying food and a little culinary creativity.
The building was bigger than I expected, with patio seating on a deck along the west side of the building, and three rooms inside. The odd dining hour found the place dead empty. A few more customers started arriving after 5, but the restaurant was only serving until 6.
While a dining room father back was done in dark panelling, ours was brighter and definitely suggested Mexico, with walls painted in several strong hues and ornamented by suns and strawberries. The small tables bore a variety of colorful plastic tablecloths. The carpeting was dark, and the specials were listed on large green chalkboards hung high. It’s a cozy atmosphere, and a little dim, with the type of eclectic character that befits everything from jeans to suits and ties. Mild salsa music played continuously, at a level loud enough to enjoy, but not so loud as to interfere with conversation.
Our quiet waiter was very busy in the room, but prompt and attentive whenever we needed anything. Deep-fried tortilla strips on the table were puffed and slightly oily. The guacamole we ordered was nearly pure avocado, mashed yet still chunky enough, but Amy detected a hint of fermentation that she didn’t like.
She really enjoyed her Tacos del Tio Israel ($10.25). The fish was breaded, fried, and tasty, accompanied inside the soft corn tortilla by fresh red onion, cilantro, and red cabbage with a (chipotle?) mayonnaise. The sides of rice and refried beans were the ordinary staples found in Mexican restaurants everywhere, nothing special. Her Margarita Azteca was pink like lemonade, served with small cubes and salt on the rim. She enjoyed it, and even began singing a little afterward.
Both of our entrees arrived at our table with almost suspicious speed. For the price ($16.50), I expected more from my Pollo a la Talla. The chicken was supposed to be “grilled to perfection” with a chili glaze, but to me it seemed more like it was braised (not nuked, I trust) and then sauced with a dark, bland mole. There was no chili heat, and not enough flavor or spice. The dark meat was mushy, and the breast meat was flavorless and dry. I also had the rice, and a small salad topped with awful slices of supermarket tomatoes, plus a garlic potato salad which was okay and did include garlic, but might just as well have been bought at a decent deli counter and didn’t seem particularly Mexican. Even a small touch like a garnish of some sort could have made it seem less ordinary.
Overall, while it wasn’t anything amazing, Taqueria Azteca is a restaurant we may return to. We both liked the food better than La Perla’s, and I’m sure it’s more fun when it’s busier.