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Fiesta 38

Update 1/14/2011: Fiesta 38 is closed.

In a word: Special, but not that special.

The specs: #0569  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; in Isthmus 6/17/10 and 8/12/10, 77Square, Madison Dining Online, listing at EatDrinkMadison; TDPF; Fiesta 38 on Urbanspoon

Latest Fiesta 38 news and reviews

Alma ate the Latin mix chicken chop with patacones and a chicha morada.
JM ate the Mexican chicken chop with a tamale and a pineapple Jarritos.
Nichole ate the half chicken with sweet potato fries and arepas.
We split a side of sweet plantain. [added after posting]
The bill was about $27, or $9/person, plus tip.
Alma, JM, and Nichole all gave Fiesta 38 a B (see our grading rubric).

Fiesta 38, on Park Street right next to Inka Heritage and run by the same folks, describes itself as a pan-South American take on fast food. It was pan-South American food, and serviceable at that, but their take on "fast" was slower than average, indeed slower than most meals made at home.

The epic length of our stay was partly our fault because we weren't that fast at deciding between the chops (rice bowls), sanguches, and roasted chicken. Our server came back twice, patiently answering questions each time, before we settled on two chops and a half chicken with what seemed at the time a variety of side dishes. It wasn't until we looked up from our menus that we noticed the giant photos posted around the room that illustrated each dish. D'oh. Next time we'll order from the wall.

A generous pour (sans ice) of homemade horchata was creamy and smooth, wand the chicha morada as cinnamon-spiked and fresh as we remember from Inka Heritage. Most of the fare is meaty or fried, so we made sure to sip slowly to conserve some beverages for the meal.

Horchata, chicha morada, JarritosTamaleTamalePatacones

The tamale was surprising (to us), more like a deep fried bun filled with breakfast-link-standard-flavor sausage and some assorted vegetables and lentils. JM was not a fan, so Alma and Nichole split the tamale as well as the patacones sweet plantain. These deep fried plaintain slices were best hot, but even cooled down they were strides better than the same item as it occasionally appears on the Great Dane Hilldale brunch buffet.

Half chicken with sweet potato fries and arepas

Nichole's half chicken was the most pricey item, but she wrung an extra lunch out of it. The small half chicken itself was superb - peppery and moist, with the skin rightly being the best part. A pile of very good thin sweet potato fries and two arepas (a somewhat bland corn cake) filled out the heavy meal.

Mexican chicken chopLatin mix chicken chop

Alma loves lentils, and the scoop of brown ones between the ample rice and chicken layers of her Latin mix chicken chop were perfectly cooked. The postones patacones, a different slice of fried plantain than the patacones sweet plantain, had a good crispy texture. The boneless chicken was also delicious and juicy. A dash of pico de gallo was much needed to balance and lighten the flavors.

JM was less thrilled with his Mexican chicken chop for a frequently-cited personal reason: too many beans. The whole meal to him was ultimately unsatisfying. So much fried stuff seemed imbalanced. More sauces would have been nice to change up the vegetable oil note that played like a basso continuo throughout the meal.

77 Square reported that the 38 in the name is a special number for the owners and a reference to their children's birthdays, which we think is sweet. We saw the kids around often during the meal, running in and out of the kitchen and dining room. (We're observing and nothing more - mostly because it would be unfair to the other places we've seen kids in the kitchen not to mention it here.)

Fiesta 38 has a neat concept and an exceptionally cute logo; it could just use some speed and polish. We don't generally like going to places less than a month after they open (we went three weeks after the soft open on June 10). Maybe by the time these words go out it will have polished its chops.


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I believe tostones are the alternate fried plantain preparation you're referencing.

I'm having a hard time figuring this place out from the reviews. Everything sounds heavy and unsatisfying, but one look at the skin on that chicken and I want to go there right now.

Looking back at the menu, we do admit that we got it wrong. The menu refers to patacones (pictured with the Latin mix chicken chop) and "sweet plantain" (pictured on its own), but no mention of tostones. We hope we've made clear corrections.

Thanks for pointing it out.

That actually makes sense; from what I'm able to discern (in what is a hazy realm of distinction), patacones is pretty much the South American name for tostones. Any differences on the plate appear to be incidental, and since the owners appear to have South American roots, patacones would make more sense than tostones.

Although given what I know about tostones/patacones--primarily that they're smashed plantain slices, fried--I have to wonder if Fiesta 38's very menu didn't lead you astray. They seem to have transposed their plantains.

I could be wrong, and should probably stop breaking down the etymology of a language I don't actually speak.

A friend and I had planned to eat here for a few weeks, and thanks for your review, we were able to better navigate the menu. We each got the bowls - I the Peruvian and she the Mexican. I agree that more sauces are needed, but both bowls were generous portions of seasoned rice and tasty chicken. They were out of the horchata, but I had the always wonderful chicha morada and we split an order of the sweet fries.

Service is slow, yes, but very friendly. We said that we'd both go back again.

Took CJ here. Inconsistent, but the one thing a place like this has to do right is the rotisserie chicken, and they really do.

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