Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Review: Pepe's Rockn' Taco Shack

You can't go wrong with $2 margaritas during Happy Hour in Milwaukee.

Located a few blocks south of the hussle on Farwell and North Ave., Pepe's Rockn' Taco Shack has invigorated the space that once was Sol Fire in the 2000 block of N. Farwell Ave. on Milwaukee's east side.

Brightly colored pinatas and Corona posters adorn the dining and bar areas, but you'll also find retro prints of Mexican flicks with hombres wearing sombreros and fighting monsters or riding donkeys.

The waitstaff wears t-shirts (available for $16 in men's and women's styles) emblazoned on the back with the phrase: "If it ain't Pepe's, it's crap."

Too often have I gone into a cookie-cutter Mexican restaurant to find bland food from South of the Border. But at Pepe's if you like spice, you'll be in for a real treat. Starting off the K-Suh-Dea's, $5 plain, extra if you order with meat, (or quesadillas for the Spanish-speaking inclined) is filled with monstrous slices of jalapenos peppers, diced tomatoes and onions. Then you can have it with "grilled yard" (chicken) "ground cow" (ground beef), "steak'd cow" (beef steak), or "sea monkey" (shrimp).

One of the trends recently in the area is guacamole freshly made at the table. Habanero's in Wauwatosa is one of my favorites, but it is surely overpassed by the quirkiness of Pepe's version. Instead of having one of their staff mash the avocados, cilantro, onion, garlic, lime and other ingredients, they hand over the tools to the guest to make it a great anger management test.

The dinner menu isn't as diverse as some Mexican restaurants in the area, but it makes up for that with some of it's titles of dishes like the "Chimi...Whatever", $7 for plain, extra for meat. Or, the "O.R.E.," short for One Round Enchilada, $8. The steak version ($2 extra) had potential, but it was served luke warm with only one side of green rice.

The most promising entree seemed to be the "Devil Shrimp," $16.50, topped with diced cucumbers, fiery sea-monkeys, and served with rice. But the shrimp was underdone and reeked of a fishy taste that even the spices couldn't mask.

To cool off after some spicy dishes, we chose the flan, $4, the churros, $2, and my personal favorite -- the Choco Tacos, $3.

I expected the flan to be a little less hard and have more of a caramel flavor. Instead, it was drenched in a syrup and coconut dressing that seemed almost bitter. The churros were the last of the evening, slightly dry, but still sugary and good. And alas, the Choco Tacos weren't served all nice and pretty with whipped cream and chocolate shaving like I would have imagined them for $3, but they were served in the wrapper like I could have received at a 7-11.

Pepe's Rockn' Taco Shack has already surpassed some obstacles. It was forced to change its name from the "Pink Taco," reason for that is still unknown -- my bet is the derogatory nature, other's say that the Hard Rock Cafe's Las Vegas bar with the same name played a part.

The staff seems to be trying hard with great specials every night of the week from $2 margaritas from 4 to 7 p.m. during Happy Hour, or All-You-Can-Eat tacos on Tuesdays for $10-12, or even Sunday Game Days with five Coronitas for $10 or 20 tacos and a margarita pitcher for only $25.

But, it may struggle during the cold winter months if not enough North Ave. bar revelers venture down Farwell far enough to get some late night eats on the patio which is closed for the season. Only time will tell if this Mexican hot spot can outlast in this neighborhood.

No comments: