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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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In Dining

La Estacion is in Waukesha's 132-year-old Victorian gothic railway station

In Dining

Legendary Mexican artist Diego Rivera looks over the shoulder of La Estacion owner Tony Marquez.

In Dining

Camarones con naranja y tequila is a specialty at La Estacion.

La Estacion is on the right track in Waukesha


Bienvenidos a Mexican Dining Week on OnMilwaukee.com. This week, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, we're spicing things up with daily articles about Mexican restaurants, foods, drinks, sweets and more. Enjoy a week of sizzling stories that will leave you craving Milwaukee's Latin offerings. Olé!

A food industry friend who is a Chicago native spent her childhood summers in Mexico, watching her aunts and uncles cook. A while back I asked her to name the Mexican restaurants she favors in the Milwaukee area.

She mentioned only two, Cempazuchi on Brady Street and La Estacion in Waukesha. "They make a Mexican beef stew at La Estacion that tastes just like my mother's," my friend said.

Cempazuchi receives a lot of deserved attention from foodies and diners eager to adventure beyond burritos and chimichangas, but La Estacion is off the radar for many Milwaukeeans. It is clearly time to get the scoop on it.

"You will not find a sombrero or a blanket in here," owner Tony Marquez declares about his restaurant, which occupies the cavernous, 1881-vintage Victorian gothic Waukesha railroad station. He takes pride in how his establishment is decorated, but his statement reflects a larger reality. La Estacion is determinedly not a typical Mexican restaurant in ways large and small.

It features a highly popular Sunday buffet brunch ($14.95) that was inspired by the now-closed Pandl's in Bayside. Marquez was a fan of the Pandl's Sunday specialty that many considered the best brunch in Milwaukee, and he has emulated it with a Mexican twist. A buffet line is augmented by stations where omelets, waffles, pancakes and Mexican shrimp dishes are prepared.

A rotating roster of La Estacion specialties, including pozole, cactus bread and tamales rubbed in banana leaves, is offered on the brunch. "We have tortillas being made right in front of you, just like in a little town in Mexico," Marquez says.

"Before we started the brunch six years ago, we were slow on Sundays. Now Sunday sometimes beats Friday for us," the owner adds.

Like virtually all Latin restaurants, La Estacion serves margaritas and mojitos. It grows its own mint in the summer for the mojitos. But Marquez also likes to experiment at the bar, and he has concocted a martini that features freshly squeezed orange juice and agave syrup.

La Estacion makes its own caramel sauce, using organic goat's milk and a touch of tequila. The sauce is poured over crepes and topped with vanilla ice cream and chopped walnuts for a dessert priced at $5.50.

Marquez emigrated to Chicago from Guadalajara, Mexico with his family when he was 7. As a kid he began working for an uncle who was in the restaurant business. "Washing dishes kept me out of trouble," he says.

By 17, he was helping manage the restaurant, and at 21 Marquez moved to Waukesha to open Taqueria Jalisco, a 15-table eatery located a few blocks from La Estacion. His uncle was his partner.

The two men subsequently founded La Hacienda in Madison and then separated their business interests, with Marquez getting Jalisco and opening yet another restaurant, El Jardin, in Janesville.

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Talkbacks

FABY | May 2, 2012 at 12:35 p.m. (report)

You should also try El Seorial off of 31st and Burnham. Great food and atmosphere!

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danno | April 30, 2012 at 8:12 p.m. (report)

"La Estacion is determinedly not a typical Mexican restaurant in ways large and small." Website menu looks fairly typical. No moles?

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danno | April 30, 2012 at 8:10 p.m. (report)

"La Estacion is determinedly not a typical Mexican restaurant in ways large and small." Looked at website menu and looks fairly typical. No moles?

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Cleopatra326 | April 30, 2012 at 2:38 p.m. (report)

BEST Margaritas and BEST food.. what else can u ask for>?!

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jakkalope | April 30, 2012 at 2:12 p.m. (report)

This restaurant is FAR better than any Mexican joint near the dtown area. La Perla/La Fuente, for example, are garbage compared to La Estacion. The flavors are simply better and the margarita's crush La Fuente's. Only down side is it's difficult to find if you've never been there before. Joey's on Bluemound is another Mexican place that is excellent...perhaps a little bit better than La Estacion!

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