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In a word: Trying.

The specs: #0475  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at YelpDane 101, Taste Test Madison, Althouse, Quomodocumque; official web site, Pasqual's on Urbanspoon

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Ann ate the shrimp fajitas.
JM ate the jerk chicken burrito with a lemonade.
Meade ate the chicken mole with a Guiness.
Nichole ate the chorizo tacos.
We split some chips and salsa.
The bill was about $55, or $13.75/person, plus tip.
We all gave Pasqual's a B (see our grading rubric).

Tacos and burritoWe've heard that Pasqual's has a solid pedigree as one of the oldest ethnic restaurants in Madison, from back when tacos were exotic. The folks who run it have been credited with being the first to bring Southwestern-style food to the city. We figured we'd try the newer Hilldale Mall location. As Ann pointed out, one of the most obvious benefits is that this one has table service.

Nichole opted for tacos. There must be a thousand permutations of toppings and tortillas, but her choice was the quite-greasy chorizo on  blue corn tortillas that held up amazingly well. Tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream and black olives topped things off in a very Midwestern-home-table kind of way. The black beans with cheese were hard to stop eating, but the heavily-augmented rice was missable.

JM's burrito plate was staunch and minimalist, again, and none of us could figure out why the white sauce on the side was some sort of cucumber-infused yogurt. It had a few too many beans but was very spicy but, upon further inspection, the flavor was all at the surface with no latent heat. It was good, all right, but nothing much to write about on the internet.

Ann's shrimp fajitas, by contrast, had way more style than substance. Or, if we're being frank, they were annoying: not brought sizzling hot; fussy to assemble, which delayed the eating further; and accompanied by more offbeat toppings (which is to say, traditional fajita toppings that belong nowhere when the meat moves to shrimp). The shrimp themselves had just a whisper of lime flavor, so that was nice. Ann's take on her meal was fun and led to good comments over on her blog, which would be a good place to learn more.

Meade's choice of chicken mole enchiladas was a good bet, with a very dark, chocolatey mole sauce over flavorful chicken. He and Ann ended up trading plates to even out their luck, which was awfully nice of him.

We asked ourselves whether it seemed like Pasqual's was achieving its apparent goal to be a slightly more upscale yet funky outlet of their Southwest/Mexican fare, and the answer was "not really." Which is too bad, since their original Monroe St. location seems to be carrying the tradition on quite well. We're glad to see that Pasqual's in Verona has added Circolo, because this place could be resting a little heavily on its laurels, especially now that Madison has a surfeit of SouthWestern, TexMex and Mexican restaurants.


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I've always wanted to like Pasqual's... it always seems like "this time it's going to be good"... but it's never really that good.

Actually, Pasqual's in Verona has stopped being Pasquals, which we found rather sad, since it was a great place to go with our kids in town (we live in Verona). The Circolo is open occasionally for prix fixe dinners, which do look interesting although they don't fit our family dining needs. The enterprise now focuses on catering.

When it was open, the Verona Pasqual's was very much like the Monroe St. outlet, and we miss it. We ate at the Hilldale version a couple of weeks ago, and had an enjoyable meal -- I recommend the tamales, both kinds are good, and the seasoned French Fries come in a big basket that is popular for the kids.

First time commenter, long time reader.
I liked my food at Pasqual's Midvale location, but that was a while ago and I can't remember what I had. However, they have darn good margaritas so I can't talk bad about them.

Very bland, but I don't usually stray too far from burritology when I order.

I'm a big fan of Pasqual's on Monroe St., but I also think the Hilldale location is just not as good. The vibe is a lot different and the table service is a bit off-putting. That said, they have really good burritos and black beans. Unfortunately, the last time I went the rice was really undercooked, but it still had good flavor. I'm not a big fan of the margaritas myself. I guess they're just a bit strong for my liking. Also, the crushed ice is strange.

All in all, I still enjoy Pasqual's and if I'm by Hilldale and need to eat, I wouldn't avoid it.

I think the quality of Pasqual's has gone down since I started eating there in the early 90s. I don't think it's bad; I am just not excited to eat there anymore. I have a similar experience as Jaimie:

1. I have had undercooked rice more than once.
2. The Monroe Street location has better food than the Hilldale location.

Ann declares her food inedible and it gets a B?

I grew up going to the Pasquals on Atwood as a kid. The best burritos ever. I went to the Hilldale location prior to a movie. We waited 20 min. before a waitress even paid us any attention, because we finally flagged one down. My dining partner ordered a strawberry margarita. We waited another 10 min. before the waitress came back and said they were "out" of strawberry flavoring, or maybe they had some but she couldn't find it. Minding our time because of the movie, we had to rush through eating, which was OK because the food was terrible. Still great chips & salsa though!

P's is vastly overrated. The food is quite bland and since they stopped cooking on site and have food delivered, it has gotten downright awful. I had some pulled pork tacos at the Monroe St store the other day and gagged on how dry the meat was. I took it out of the tacos and ate them meatless--much better.

The salsa they sell is good, but very over priced. Pico de gallo is decent, not the best, but also over priced.

The jerk chicken burrito dinner is pretty good as is the guacamole.

Bottom line, go to Laredo's, or Taqueria Guadalajara on Park St. They both are better priced for better food.

Pasqual's is my go-to place for Mexican food. Just had the enchiladas for lunch and they were wonderful. Sorry, but I think the Laredo's enchiladas are disgusting. It's like they microwave chicken, tortilla's, and sauce seperately and then assemble them before serving. At Pasqual's, the flavors blend deliciously and become more than the sum of their parts. Another favorite is the double taco with guacamole. I agree that the Monroe St. locations (including the new place) are definately better than Hilldale.

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