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In Dining Reviews: Charro adds value to trend on Milwaukee

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In Dining Reviews
Charro adds value to trend on Milwaukee Street

In Dining Reviews
The menu at Charro is a compilation of Cuban, Mexican and Spanish flavors.

By Amy L. Schubert
Food Writer
Photography by Whitney Teska
E-mail author | Author bio
More articles by Amy L. Schubert

Published March 30, 2009 at 8:18 a.m.
Tags: charro, tom wackman, omar shaikh, michael polski, umami moto, apartment 720, kenadees, carnevor, mi-key's

If you walk into Charro Restaurante, 729 N. Milwaukee St., expecting your typical Milwaukee Street menu, crowd, service and prices, you might find yourself completely taken aback.

Charro, the creation of Milwaukee Street veterans Tom Wackman (also of Apartment 720, Kenadees, Carnevor and Umami Moto Milwaukee), Omar Shaikh (Carnevor and Umami Moto Milwaukee) and Michael Polaski (Umami Moto in Brookfield and Milwaukee and Mi-Key's on Jefferson Street) combines reasonable, and well-delivered Latin cuisine with what has become this trio's trademark trendy décor.

The menu at Charro is a compilation of Cuban, Mexican, and Spanish flavors, with then appropriately expected appearances of dishes like ropa vieja (appetizer, $7; entrée, $13), tacos ($2.50 each, a la carte) and seafood paella ($17). As you can see, prices here are reasonable for Milwaukee Street and even carry through weekly specials like $2 tacos on Sunday nights and $1 margaritas on Thursday nights. For Wackman and crew, this pricing structure is a newfound lower plateau -- something that adds an entirely new dimension to the up until now, pricier atmosphere of this strip.

Charro's name is derived from a gritty 1969 Elvis Presley western film that pitted a somber hero against his old gang members. The restaurant's interior embodies this solemn, almost seething mood with flaming reds and a series of carved crosses placed over cursive-lettered writings from the film. The result is vibrant, dark and brooding, yet exhilarating at the same time.

Dinners at Charro begin with an exceptional salsa; slightly spicy, and rich with fresh flavors of cilantro, onions and tomatoes; the salsa sets a strong tone that doesn't waver.

While some dishes at Charro are more successful than others, overall, everything we tried placed in the "very good" to "exceptional" range. Charro carries through the same elements that make its sister restaurant, Umami Moto Milwaukee, successful -- clean, fresh flavor combinations, and simple, well-thought platings.

Charro's empanadas ($5) carried a heavy smokiness through the tender shredded chicken that is unique to their rendition of these Spanish appetizers. And that element of distinctiveness carried through into items like ceviches. A fire and ice combination ($11) delivered four tiny stacks of lobster meat, red onion slices, and a jalapeno slice drizzled with coconut milk and garnished with red pepper slices. The only thing more beautiful than the presentation was the flavors of these tiny stacks as they hit my tongue; don't hesitate with the serving -- while red onion and / or fresh jalapeno can sometimes be overbearing on their own, the combinations at Charro are laid out in perfection.

The downfall of a veal flour tortilla taco ($2.50), was that the shell had not been softened enough with oil in a hot pan before serving, because it fell to pieces when we tried to eat it. But other than that, we were thrilled with our entrees, which included a chicken burrito "as big as your head" ($12), that was undoubtedly as big as anyone's head, and delivered as well, if not better, in flavor, than it did in size.

Arroz con pollo ($11) which is too-often served bland and dry in restaurants, was exceptional. Braised and marinated wing, thigh and drumstick pieces of chicken were so tender the meat literally fell from the bone. The accompanying rice was heavy with Cuban and Mexican spices. And enchiladas ($11) in salsa rojas, held a latent heat that was cut sweetly by an aromatic and delicious serving of black beans and Mexican rice.

Charro is not yet open for lunch, but based on what I sampled for dinner, this is one place I hope will open its doors earlier in the summertime. The restaurant is a welcomed addition not only to Milwaukee Street, but to Downtown overall.

More Information ...
729 E. Milwaukee St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 431-5557

5 comments about this article.
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MrsBumpa I LOVED Charro's. 1st time there after seeing article in Journal. Thumbs up ...
pollo_loco Ms. Schubert - Putting a flour tortilla in a hot pan with oil does not soften ...
angelamb825 I still am a little confused that a Latin fusion place with Cuban influences ...
mitchgat Can't wait to try this place!!
AcesFull711 I'll try it out only if they have a signature drink called the "Cuchi-Cuchi-Cuchi!" ...