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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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In Dining Reviews

The atmosphere here makes Cempazuchi a destination spot for a first date or casual night out with friends. (PHOTO: Damien Legault )

In Dining Reviews

For diners seeking Mexican food quality that meets or exceeds that of the margaritas, Cempazuchi does very well with both. (PHOTO: Damien Legault )

In Dining Reviews

Cempazuchi has been on Brady Street nearly 10 years. (PHOTO: Damien Legault )

In Dining Reviews

Décor here is fresh and bright, mirroring the menu. (PHOTO: Damien Legault )

Cempazuchi remains a Brady Street Mexican treat


Milwaukee has an interesting array of Mexican dining, with a thriving 6th Street district perhaps better known for its libations and fun atmosphere than fine cuisines, and a smattering, city-wide, of more "uptown"-- if you will -- Mexican eateries, including Rey Sol, Bay View's Riviera Maya and Taqueria Azteca, and Brady Street's Cempazuchi Comida Brava, 1205 E. Brady St.

Cempazuchi has been on Brady Street nearly 10 years, and while many of its neighbors have come and gone, Cempazuchi remains, bright and carefree on the corner, and it recently phased smoking out of its bar and dining areas.

Décor here is fresh and bright, mirroring the menu, which also showcases fresh produce and in some cases unlikely combinations which shine and keep the mood and menu light and fun.

Cempazuchi's menu begins with antojitos (appetizers) including a good take on guacamole ($6.25), a totopos loco ($8.25, half order $6.25) nacho platter spiced with chorizo and jalapeno peppers, and a tlacoyo zapotec ($6.50) a blue cornmeal masa cake topped with lettuce, tomato, crème fraiche and Mexican cheeses.

All three appetizers we sampled were unique and obviously made with fresh ingredients, although in some cases, we felt were a little bland. The fresh guacamole garnished just about every other appetizer, and the nachos were a clear favorite, especially in the bites that carried the good, spicy tang of chorizo.

Especiales de casa (house specialties) include common Mexican items like enchiladas, with a Cempazuchi flair. Enchiladas Oaxaquenas ($8.95 with choice of chicken, steak, pork, or a combination of chicken and pork (tinga), $7.95 for cheese and onion, $9.25 for seafood) shunned a boring presentation of rolled up tortillas and instead delivered a stack of fresh tortillas stacked amongst the tender shredded chicken and red chile sauce.

Tacos de Tio Israel ($9.50) pair perch rolled in a lightly crunchy blue cornmeal with a crisp and delicious lime slaw and a thick serving of stew-like black beans which were excellent when cut with a dab of crème fraiche.

The especiales regionale cena section of Cempazuchi's menu features dinner menu items available only after 5 p.m., including a chuleta en crema de hongos ($15.95), a simple breaded pork chop dish over a sweet potato mash paired with chipotle portabella cream sauce. Dinner items also include choice of protein served with pipian, a lovely Aztecan poblano pepper sauce made with ground pumpkin seeds and peanuts for $15.95.

One of the highlights of the Cempazuchi menu is its torta selection, especially the Cubana ($8.25), a rich, heavy and absolutely delicious Mexican sandwich on a sweet and light pan Frances sliced flat roll, stuffed with pulled pork, bacon, beans, avocado and jalapenos.

The meat was tender and not greasy, despite the normally fatty contents of both pulled pork and bacon, and was seasoned generously. Jalapenos peeked out from the mixture periodically just to deliver a pleasant punch to the sandwich and perhaps remind the eater of the dishes' ethnic origin. The torta was truly exceptional and a rare find.

Cempazuchi's bar features fresh margaritas and a respectable sangria, both of which complement the food and flavors well, and the atmosphere here makes it a destination spot for a first date or casual night out with friends. For diners seeking Mexican food quality that meets or exceeds that of the margaritas, Cempazuchi does very well with both.

Cempazuchi opens Tuesday through Saturday at 11:30 a.m., Sundays at 3 p.m.


Talkbacks

Rowen727 | Dec. 4, 2007 at 11:07 a.m. (report)

Cempazuchi is my favorite mexican restaurant in the City! They have great margaritas, salsas, and the Torta de Camerone is awesome. They have also gone SMOKE FREE which makes it even more appealing to me as a parent. Thanks Bryce for going smoke free!

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Chavo414 | Dec. 4, 2007 at 10:27 a.m. (report)

My favorite is Riviera Maya, Great Service & Great Food. Mexican food usually is heavy on my stomach, but for some reason Riviera Maya's food is comfortable and taste GREAT. I rate them the best in Milwaukee with food and service, not sure about their drinks yet.

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kob | Dec. 4, 2007 at 8:59 a.m. (report)

Good to hear that bman and Henry VIII will no longer be attending. Less wait time for the rest of us. La Perla is probably more your style. Really fast service, mediocre food. That way you can be done with your meal in 30 minutes. I like the service because I've never felt rushed and was able to enjoy the food. Tostadas are great. Although simplistic the flavors are right on. My guess is that the employees belly up to the bar because the drinks are really good. Enjoy your next dinner with canned guac.

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HenryVIII | Dec. 3, 2007 at 10:11 p.m. (report)

Terrible place. My wife and I lived 1 block from Cempazuchi for over a year. Based on articles like this, we tried it several times, even after initial disappointments. Some of the worst service I've ever had, and the food was far from exceptional. We really wanted to like the place, living so close, but it always fell short. Never could understand why anybody spoke highly of it.

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bman | Dec. 3, 2007 at 7:37 p.m. (report)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Bad service, good food. They need a management change.(not a menu change) Wait staff disappears for long periods of time, The Host often seems uninterested in whats going on in the dining area. Waitstaff finish their shift and stay and drink at the bar while people are still dining. It's service 101 type stuff. This used to be a great place, after too many bad service experiences I will not dine there anymore

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