Mexican food is one of the most common "ethnic" foods around, and like many ethnic food types that have been around for a while (italian comes to mind) it has drifted into a rut. Go to most mexican food restaurants and what will you get? A huge plate of refried beans, rice and something wrapped in a tortilla, covered with cheese and grease. Now somethimes that's great, but a lot of times you want something just a hair more sophisticated. Finally, I've found in it Madison.
Rating: ***** (Fantastic)
Food: (Dinner) Right from the beginning you know it's going to be good. You sit down, and are presented with homemade tortilla chips and two kinds of salsa. The chips are super light and crispy. One type of salsa is a very smoky, very spicy red sauce; the other is a mild, tomatilla based salsa that is so flavorful. When it comes to the main course, La Mestiza doesn't have your typical mexican menu. Surprise, there are no burritos on the menu(!) and only a few tacos and enchaladas. Instead there are a lot of special dishes, particularly from the Oaxacan region of Mexico, where some of the best mexican restaurant cuisine I've tried comes from. I had the Cochinta Pibil: a beautiful serving of cirtus juice-soaked pork with pickeled red onions, served with rice and tortillas. The pork was so succulient and flavorful, despite being quite mild. Tortillas are homemade and a little chewy but not bad. My dining companion had the three taco appitizer, which she willingly shared with me. The Carne Asada tacos were amazing, the pork less so, and the chicken was downright dull. One other note: the Friday night special was a shoulder of pork, which I saw from afar: it looked amazing.
Service: The wait staff was first rate: very friendly, very attentive, and willing to talk. And not just at our table, but the other servers at the other tables were genually more friendly than I've seen at any restaurant in a long time.
Atmosphere: You would expect La Mestiza to be in the Willy neighborhood, or somewhere more funky, but it's in a strip mall on Odana Road. The restaurant is fairly small, with booths along the wall and tables in the middle. However, the walls are brightly painted in shades of orange, with some art on the walls, keeping the atmosphere bright and lively.
Cost: ($$$) Dishes are more expensive than you might expect to pay, with entrees between $12.50 and $15.00.