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.