In a word: DeForest has been owed this place for a while.
The specs: #00783
142 Market St., DeForest 53532
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JM ate the #2 combo (beef enchilada, beef taco, beef chalupa) with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the enchiladas lemon lime.
The bill was $18, or $9/person, plus tip.
JM gave Aranda's a B; Nichole gave Aranda's a B+ (see our grading rubric).
So they say "write what you know," and we know a bunch about lunch at Laredo's, so that's what we'll compare Aranda's to. Fair or not, it feels like it's in the same class as Laredo's, but Aranda's reads a few grade levels ahead.
For example, we witnessed an amazing server balancing 5 plates on one arm. We've never seen such dexterity in Madison proper.
The dining room was full of parties of divers kinds: a young girls' soccer team, two or three couples on date night, at least one girls' night out, and a few (slightly put-out-looking) singles at the small bar. The close, bright interior was made to feel less small by a soaring exposed ceiling.
Of the beverages: the lemonade was watery, there was no horchata, and Pepsi is the soft drink on contract. We didn't try anything off the extensive Mexican beer or margarita list.
There were nice complimentary pre-meal chips: thin, crisp, and large; the salsa had a ripe tomato flavor but maybe too much cilantro, judging by a slightly soapy flavor, but it had a slow-building heat that was appealing. (The soapy flavor subsided in the leftovers.)
JM got a trio combo. The enchilada was ground beef in a flour tortilla with red sauce and white cheese. Overall, these were well put-together if a little unfamiliar. Nichole liked the sauce, which was more robust and less acidic than Lardo's (sic), and she also liked that there was no potato filler in the beef.
The taco was in a hard shell with lettuce, beef, and cheese. The chalupa had the same ingredients as all the rest except for a smidge of refried beans gluing everything together.
So, for the "special lemon lime sauce" on the grilled chicken enchiladas, imagine a Hollandaise with lime and cilantro. Good, right? There was a flour tortilla wrapped around bits of light and dark chicken meat that had a good grilled flavor but a disappointing rubbery texture. The red rice was fluffy and flavorful; the guac and diced tomatoes were OK.
If you need to hate something at a midwestern Mexican restaurant, you can always aim at the shredded iceberg lettuce. Otherwise, the enchiladas lemon-lime were good.
Perusing the menu the next day, we noticed the most excellent phrase: "All combinations include cheese." Also "Chalupas Bean" and "Tostadas Beef" is cute.
Also there are about 40 more things Nichole would like to try: the caldo de pollo with avocado; the chicken torta; the enchiladas Potosinas with pork and cactus; the carnitas, tacos al pastor, and mole ranchero (duh); the Swiss enchilada with spinach and Swiss cheese (does it work?); Aranda's Special (ribeye with an onion blossom, just to follow the rule), and the Alambre if it's anything like sister restaurant La Tolteca's.
JM is just the opposite. He's happy with Laredo's familiar offerings and heading so far out for food that didn't quite blow him away is just not that interesting, but he wouldn't say no when Nichole wants to try the things from her wish book.