For a number of years, I'd felt that La Perla in Milwaukee was one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Midwest. The last couple times I've stopped in, I thought the food just wasn't as good as I remember it being. It was still good compared to a lot of other places I've eaten at, but it didn't have that La Perla "pizazz". During a recent trip to Milwaukee, I was in the mood for Mexican food. Instead of La Perla, I went down the block to a place we've eaten at a couple three times before - La Fuente (see map).
La Fuente (The Fountain) is part of Jose Zarate's small family of restaurants which includes Hemingway's Habana Vieja (Hemingway's Old Havana), a Cuban restaurant which opened in late 2005 and is located just across the street from La Fuente. La Fuente has been a staple in the Old South Side neighborhood around National and 5th since 1991, becoming one of the first Mexican restaurants in an area with a growing Hispanic population.
The decor of La Fuente is festive with a Mexican slant. Bright pastel colors adorn the walls along with authentic Mexican items and artwork. There is a nice-sized bar with a long dining area inside the restaurant. In the summer months, there is a large outdoor seating area (right) with, of course, a large water fountain that runs non-stop. Actually, there's a couple fountains in the La Fuente courtyard. I'm a sucker for nice ornate fountains. La Fuente is a common destination for a number of the areas younger people who go in for drink specials and appetizers at the bar.
The menu is expansive with over 40 different combination dishes to choose from. That's what makes it so difficult to go into La Fuente - I never know what to get because there's so many great things on the menu. In addition to the regular menu, La Fuente also incorporates vegetarian dishes, as well as well as a handful of shrimp or seafood items.
Sipping on my margarita, I was really torn as what to get that evening. The Enchiladas al Tomatillo is one of my favorites - you choice of chicken, ground beef, chunky beef, or pork topped mixed with goat cheese and onions in a green tomatillo sauce. Oh, man! The ones with pork are out of this world.
The Chimichanga is always a good choice at La Fuente - your choice of one or two large Chimichangas filled with your choice of meat, deep fried and topped with goat cheese and guacamole. And the Fajitas are excellent, as well. I also love the La Fuente Chef Special - double soft corn tortillas filled with steak chunks. Yum! It's tough to make a bad choice at La Fuente.
This night, however, I looked over at the Ala Carte menu which features a number of items where you can mix and match your own combination choices. I ordered up a small Chimichanga with chunky beef, a steak Enchilada with green tomatillo sauce and a pork taco. I had finished up my margarita by this time and ended up ordering a Sol beer to go with my dinner.
It wasn't long after I ordered - less than 10 minutes - when my food arrived at the table, piping hot and smelling great. I chomped into the pork taco right away and it was as good as I remember them from before. The pork is seasoned and grilled and chopped into pieces. Oh, it was heavenly.
The Steak Enchilada was also wonderful. The steak was flavorful and juicy. I enjoy the green tomatillo sauce tremendously. It's a great taste sensation. And the small Chimichanga was just outstanding, as well. I really like to order ala carte at La Fuente - or really any Mexican restaurant. While the combinations they offer are very good, I like to do my own mixing and matching of foods.
With a couple beers, the margarita and food, my bill before tax and tip came to around $26 bucks. I had OK service at La Fuente - similar to many other Mexican restaurants I've been to, quick and efficient. Even though they were somewhat busy that even (as they always seem to be), I didn't feel rushed to finish my meal and give up my table.
In a town where there's a lot of good Mexican restaurants, La Fuente is one of the best. They're consistently voted by critics and everyday people as having some of the best Mexican food in Milwaukee. They have a great atmosphere, good service, wonderful food and a lot of different tequila's to choose from. The summertime is the best time to visit La Fuente with their large outdoor patio and wonderful fountains. It's a tough place to beat for good Mexican food.