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La Queretana

Steak tacos, Coke and salsaUpdate 5/31/11: La Queretana is now Enrique's.
Update 7/24/12: It's now Mercado Juarez.

In a word: You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have La Queretana.

The specs: #0318
Address, hours & details via Isthmus.

JM ate two tacos al pastor  and a Pepsi.
John ate a taco de lengua and a taco al pastor with a coconut juice, and split a caramel churro with Nichole.
Judith ate two carne asada tacos with a bottle of Coke and a cream churro.
Nichole ate a taco de lengua and a carnitas taco with a Diet Coke and part of John's churro.
The bill was $22, or $5.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave La Queretana a B+; Nichole gave La Queretana a C+; Judith gave La Queretana a C; John S. gave La Queretana a C- (see our grading rubric).

Latest La Queretana news and reviews

La Queretana marked the last in a long run of Mexican places, thanks to the La's. (There she goes again.) It's probably the closest Madison will come to an honest-to-goodness Mexicatessen.

Don't let the sign for La Regional outside throw you. (And for the love of God don't write to tell us to edit this post if they ever change their sign.) And don't expect fancy, or even much, sit-down space, or counter staff, or napkins, or... Come in the front door and to your right you'll see two rows of groceries; to your left, a meat counter and further back, a tiny kitchen - basically a cooler, various meat-processing machines, and a table. The front of the house consists of a corner counter, a couple high chairs, a couple low stools, and a loud TV. There are menus in Spanish and English above the deli counter and the front window, which was cozily steamed up on this cold night.

La VirgenWhen we arrived, the only other people in the place were two boys, maybe 10 or 12 years old, watching MTV2. The younger guy asked if we wanted some food; Judith asked what he'd recommend, and without pause he replied, "Steak tacos." Then he offered to start making some for us. We were all, "OK." So he hopped behind the counter and started throwing tortillas on the griddle.

This was fun and surreal but short-lived, as the boss (maybe someone's dad) came in moments later. He tsk'ed and shooed the kid away, and started our order over.

Menu and steam tablesWe tried all four kinds of taco (the ones that were posted, anyway; later we wondered what other offerings lay on the dimly-lit steam tables). Vegetarians seem to be out of luck: the choices were carnitas, carne asada, al pastor, and lengua, though theoretically you could just get avocado. The tacos are simple: 2 corn tortillas on the griddle, a generous scoop of meat, optional sprinkles of raw white onions and chopped cilantro, and DIY (dollop it yourself from containers on the counter) tomatillo salsa. On weekends there are more choices, including tamales, tortas and soups.

Tacos al pastorJM's tacos al pastor were very tasty and nearly swam in bright orange pork dripping goodness. Still, he and John agreed the flavor was at best one-note, at worst bland, and even adding the salsa basically made it two-note, which is still one short of a power chord.

Judith was glad she took the first chef's recommendation, because the steak tacos had a good flavor and she thought the salsa added some nice heat. She pointed out that cola, especially Coke with real sugar, is the best drink to accompany a meal like this. (We were all amazed that JM agreed, and chose a Pepsi.)

Nichole finally got her wish for a taco de lengua and it was as delicious as she'd hoped. The tender, sweet, fatty bits of tongue pretty much dissolved in her mouth, and the taco was so loaded it nearly busted through both tortillas. John went out on this limb with her and came back unscathed, describing the tongue as "interesting." So was his coconut juice with pulp, which was pleasant with the meal, but it was odd to have to drink his beverage and chew it too.

Grocery specialsThe churros were a big disappointment, unfortunately. They were probably old and pretty tough, especially the cream one, which had completely congealed and started to stratify. Shudder.

We think John put it best when he said he wasn't likely to come back, but he's not likely to forget getting tacos at La Queretana, either.

Comments

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Yeah, I was noticing you guys have certainly been eating your share of Mexican lately!
Holy cilantro!

If you ever want to buy skirt steak in this town, this the place to get it. I went to every grocery store and "butcher" in the city until someone mentioned this place. The skirt steaks were nice, and a decent price.

I've never eaten here though.

Maybe you guys should just count "La" as "The" and go alphabetically by the word after. Then all the Mexican restaurants won't be clumped together.

Sometimes I have to eat a cheese burger or a slice of pizza from the Union when I'm on the run. It's always consistently terrible. The best thing they serve are those Odwalla freshly squeezed juice things.

I wonder how Marimar will compare to La Queretana, in your opinion.

I bet we'll find out soon!

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