RESTAURANT REVIEW: El Vallarta

Authentic dishes with great quality in Baraboo

 

By Steve Paske

                        Rating 4 of 5 cacti

El Vallarta

825 8th   Street, Baraboo, WI 53913

608.356.0084

Tuesday through Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

 

Cuisine: Mexican

Entrée Price Range: $6.95 to $24.95

Attire: Casual

Reservations: Not required

Payment Accepted: Cash/Credit/Debit

 

I’ve long enjoyed quality Mexican cuisine. It started when I lived in Central America for a period of time and has stayed with me ever since. I don’t know if it’s the food’s taste and smell or the memories they conjure up that I enjoy most.

Baraboo is a small town of 11,000 people that is about ten miles south of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. All of the top national chain restaurants are represented in the Dells as well as some nicer locally-owned restaurants. But when it comes to Mexican food there isn’t anything authentic in the Dells which makes the existence of El Vallarta in Baraboo a real treat.

Owned and operated by the Victor Escobedo family, El Vallarta has only been in business for two years but has established a very loyal following in that short time. All sauces are made and cooking is done by members of the family.  This lends to the overall great quality and authenticity of the dishes. Something you won’t find at a chain restaurant.

El Vallarta occupies the old Dairy Queen building on the main street through Baraboo. Although the outside shape remains like that of an old Dairy Queen restaurant, it has been painted with scenes that clearly suggest a Mexican environment. Inside has been completely renovated and decorated to make you feel like you have crossed south of the border. It is the only authentic Mexican restaurant in town although for the less-sophisticated pallet there is a Taco Bell on the west side of town.

As I stated in my opening paragraph, I developed a real taste for Latin cuisine while in El Salvador many more years ago than I care to admit. I have been to El Vallarta on more than a few occasions but wanted to make another trip there for the purpose of really scrutinizing their operation from the moment I entered until I paid my tab and left.

For those that have never been to Latin America the setting may strike you as somewhat psychedelic in the choice of interior colors but this reflects the cultures zest for and enjoyment of life. The seating may also seem somewhat less than comfortable and extravagant compared to what you get used to in large national chain restaurants but this is authentic furniture and serves to remind those that have been, of the great memories of their trips there. It doesn’t take long for the smells from the kitchen and the warm welcoming smiles from the wait staff to take your mind off your bottom’s comfort level.

The wait staff are impeccably groomed and attired in white shirts and black skirts or trousers. They understand their role in providing you with a quality dining experience and tend to be unfailing in the timeliness of both taking and delivering your order.

 In all of my visits there I’ve never had to wait longer than 20 minutes from the time I ordered my entrée until its delivery. Once you are done with your appetizer you may have time for a trip to the powder room before your sizzling hot entrée arrives from the kitchen.

The tamales ($7.25), burritos ($8.25) and fajitas ($10.50) are my favorite dishes. The tortillas for the tamales are never soggy which to me suggests the toppings are put on just before the dish leaves the kitchen. The burritos are generous in size and the seasonings in the meat, whether beef or chicken is always perfectly authentic and the flavors dance lightly on your taste buds. The same holds true with the fajitas. The meat arrives sizzling from the kitchen along with green peppers and onions and fresh tortillas. Again, the flavors are fresh and lively unlike anything you can experience at a chain restaurant.

The complimentary tortilla chips are warm, crunchy and tasty and the Verde and tomato salsas served with them are superb. The guacamole served with the tamales tastes like the avocados were just picked from the tree in the back yard. These are little treats that like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae completes the experience. 

In addition to the outside and inside appearance and smells and wait staff there is lively Mexican music playing at a comfortable level that completes the setting perfectly. El Vallarta is a unique dining experience in Baraboo, one that transports you to Mexico by stimulating all of your senses. Its menu’s price range suits all budgets making a complete, quality, authentic dining experience available to everyone who wishes to visit a little bit of Mexico right here

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