I found myself in the south Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek one evening as I had a training session at a nearby dealer scheduled for the next morning. Thanks to winter hanging on deep into spring, I had been driving in a mixture of rain and sleet before it finally turned to all snow just as I got into the greater Milwaukee area. Being a little burnt out from the drive, I just wanted to eat at some place close to the hotel, and quick to eat - preferably, a place that sold alcohol. Driving south down Howell Ave., I passed an interesting looking restaurant with an equally interesting name called El Fogon Tacos and Beer. "Hmmmm....", I thought to myself. "I like tacos and I like beer!" I decided to make a U-turn and head back toward the place. It turned out that going north on Howell and getting into El Fogon was sort of a challenge. But a left turn on Puetz Road, then another U-turn later down the street with a double back, I pulled into the parking of the restaurant at the corner of S. Howell and Puetz Rd. (see map) (Getting out of El Fogon to go back north on Howell was a problem, as well. You're cut off from entering the northbound turn lane onto Howell and you have to go east on Puetz, then do a U-turn to come back to take a right on Howell.)
El Fogon - which translates into "The Chimney" in English - is owned by Filberto (Phil) Lando and his wife, Nelly. It's been open for about two and a half years and is situated in a small strip mall - curiously, it's right next to a bank. It's not a large place, it probably seats 40 people, The decor wasn't fancy in the least in the well-lit dining area. I was met by a waiter who wanted to know if I wanted to sit at a table or sit at the bar.
I ended up sitting at the bar that had a gas fireplace in the middle of back bar. At least I thought it was a gas fireplace. Hell, it probably could have been one of those fake ones, considering all the alcohol they had on shelves around the bar.
The waiter dropped off a menu for me and for a place that touts "tacos and beer", they didn't seem to have a very good selection of beers to choose from. But they sure did have a lot of tequilas on the shelf and their menu touted a number of specialty margaritas including a cucumber margarita served with cucumber slices and lime juice, and a pineapple/cilantro margarita. El Fogon has some "secret ingredient" that they add to a number of their margaritas. I wanted a beer, so I got a Dos Equis Amber.
I also got a complementary basket of chips along with two different types of sauces. One was a spicy green sauce that was just outstanding. The other was an even hotter red sauce that was very peppery to the taste. My server asked me if if I wanted anything more mild like their pico de gallo or their homemade peanut salsa. I told him the green sauce was fine and dandy with me. It was killer!
And don't let the name fool you - they definitely have more than just tacos on their menu. They had Alambre, something I'd not had since our visit to Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan peninsula about 15 years ago. Alambre is basically a skewered meat that is roasted and then mixed in with onions, peppers and topped with cheese. El Fogon gave you the choice of chicken or steak with their Alambre. They also had fajitas, enchiladas and something called Chicken El Fogon - a grilled chicken breast that is topped with grilled onions and jalapenos, with a side of lettuce and guacamole.
I'm usually a sucker for fish tacos and they had them on the menu at El Fogon, as well as shrimp tacos. Of course, they had steak, chicken, ground beef, and al pastor (spicy marinated pork) tacos, as well. You could make a combination meal out of tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, mini chimichanagas or quesadillas. But one thing sort of jumped out at me when I was looking through the menu.
They had flautas on the menu - basically thin-rolled tacos stuffed with your choice of meat and deep fried. They had a choice of either shredded chicken or shredded beef for their flautas. Those sounded really good for some reason that evening and I ended up ordering the shredded beef flautas.
The flautas came with sides of refried beans, rice, guacamole and sour cream. Actually, the guacamole was very interesting. It was unlike any guacamole that I'd had before. It had some additives that gave it a very fresh and somewhat fruity taste. I wasn't certain that I liked it at first, but found myself liking it more with each bite on a chip.
The flautas, themselves, were all right. It's pretty tough to screw up a flauta other than overcooking the beef. But the shredded beef was tender, moist and very flavorful. I poured some of the green sauce on the flautas to pep them up a bit and it helped the overall taste tremendously.
My meal at El Fogon was above-average for Mexican food, but not on the same par as some other excellent Mexican restaurants in the greater Milwaukee area that I've eaten at in the past. For the suburbs, it was fine. The Mexican restaurants around the 5th and National area of Milwaukee definitely had it beat. But if you're in the south suburbs of Milwaukee and are looking for good Mexican, I can wholeheartedly recommend El Fogon.