The worst Mexican restaurant in Madison, and a few others

Last week we had dinner at Pedro’s, the worst Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten in, surely the worst in Madison, and quite possibly the worst in the state. I ordered the chile relleno combination platter, whose only virtue was that, unlike most dishes served under that name, it was actually served on a platter. Everything on the plate was the color of a burnt sienna crayon. It also tasted like a burnt sienna crayon, if you rubbed the burnt sienna crayon with grease and then coated it in as much chili powder as would stick.

CJ’s kid’s meal was an enchilada filled with a gummy yellow cheese of which he said, “This is not my favorite kind of cheese.”

I suppose one must admire la chutzpah of billing the contents of the seafood enchiladas as “imitation Alaskan crab meat.”

But let us speak of nicer things. Let’s say you’re in Madison, hankering for Mexican, and your plans don’t include ingesting 1500 calories of greasy crayon. I do have some suggestions. Our favorite place in town is El Pastor, on South Park Street, just inside the Beltline. Simple favorites done well in a pleasant setting, plus some items not on every menu in town — I like the tampiqueña. A somewhat fancier option is La Mestiza, which emphasizes seafood and moles over burritos and tacos. We joined Eating in Madison A to Z there in February. Back to burritos and tacos: when it’s just me and CJ, we often hit Mi Cocina on the west side, where there’s a toddler at almost every table and they bring you crayons along with the chips. The food is standard and competent. I’ve never been to far-south Taqueria Miramar, but there’s a sorority on campus that sometimes buys their tamales and sells them in Ingraham Hall, and it’s always a good day when that sorority shows up. Pasqual’s serves a California/New Mexico-style menu, lighter and more vegetarian-friendly than most places in town; always pleasant, seldom spectacular.

The rest of the field: I stopped at Casa de Lara on State Street once and had an indifferent torta, old-tasting bread and too heavy on the beans. Tex Tubb’s on University somehow suggests that it’s going to be an above average, slightly inventive Mexican a la Pasqual’s, but ends up being just ordinary and a little expensive. Taqueria del Lago, inside Memorial Union, is exactly like Chipotle, and if you like Chipotle, you’ll like it. I do not.

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9 thoughts on “The worst Mexican restaurant in Madison, and a few others

  1. JmSR says:

    I actually find Casa de Lara pretty good. I have a Mexican food enthusiast at my work who swaers by them and Nichole loves the carrot planks that accompany the chips and salsa.

    Some more field…

    Mi Cocina is owned by the same people who own Laredo’s and it is similar competetant ansd reliable yet rarely outstanding. El Pescador is their seafood venture on E. Wash.

    La Bamba isn’t as bad as you’d expect. They turn in decent, if a little mass produced, delights.

    East siders know that Antojitos el Toril is about the closest we in Upper US land get to actual Mexican like the kind sold out of the back of trucks on the streets of LA.

    Delightfully frightening Lucky 7 (located between Park and Fish Hatch by the ETF building) actually has about the best chorizo in town and is open from 10 AM to 2 AM or later. Be prepared to take some home as a “Large” burrito could feed a family of three.

    I hear that some of the SuperMercados are Super and there’s a new Taqueria (starting the word “Taqueria” which is why El Pastor and Marimar haven’t popped up on AtoZ yet) off the beltline where Bamboo Hut (formerly Donut Delight) was.

    Worst AtoZ Mexican experience: Cafe Fiesta Fe in Richland Center. Don’t, just don’t.

    I’ve heard that Pedro’s sucks really hard and they only exist because of their drink specials, but as we haven’t been yet I’ll have to wait to pan them.

    We should eat together again sometime soon.

  2. Dirty Davey says:

    Last night I had the sad misfortune of dining at the worst Chinese restaurant in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro metroplex. I got to the place I’d chosen to discover that it is now closed on Mondays, and instead of completely changing plans I decided to try a different Chinese place that was on the way home from there. Never doing that again.

  3. Dirty Davey says:

    (And, regarding your first recommendation, any Mexican place with “El Pastor” in the name is going to have me giving it a good chance.)

  4. Jordan says:

    Taqueria Guadelejara is runnin’ shit these days.

  5. Doug says:

    One or two more to add to the list of places worth trying. Taqueria Guadelajara on Park (about 1 mile north of El Pastor) is good for authentic Mex. I recommend the Huaraches. The most pleasant meals here are the ones enjoyed on nice cool days on the back porch (dining room is a little cramped).

    If you’re a fan of seafood, El Pescador (at Johnson & E Wash) is good. If you’re not a fan of seafood skip it. I’d recommend the 7 seas soup (name is escaping me now, but you’ll know what I mean when you look at the menu).

    And, as another commenter said, Antojitos El Toril (Cottage Grove Rd., just West of Stoughton Rd.) is simply spectacular. Barbacoa, Carnitas, Posole, and many more are all the best in class in town. These are mostly weekend dishes, though, so I’d recommend going on Saturday & Sunday. The other items are good too, they just don’t quite hit the mark of the weekend specials.

    Other places that can be skipped include Laredo’s. There’s just nothing there that’s done as well as other places in town. Also, the place in Middleton by PF Chang’s & Quaker Steak (whose name escapes me) is like the Mexican equivalent of Olive Garden. I simply cannot recommend it.

    Happy Hunting!

  6. Mr. Null says:

    I concur with the assesment of Pedro’s. Any place that serves “hambangos” (a hamburger with a “mexican” name) needs to be stopped.

    I’m partial to la Mestiza. I used to love Guadalajara but admittedly I haven’t been there in a while.

    Not fond of Mi Cocina, though. It’s merely Laredo’s with another name. I always end up with serious indigestion at any one of those.

  7. JmSR says:

    Doug is thinking of Abuelo’s. Every time I go I don’t really like it but my dining companions do.

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