Daily Taco + Cantina, the new restaurant from Barkha and Jesse Daily of the cheel, officially opened to the public on Nov. 20. But now that the holiday season has passed and they've had a few weeks under their belt, it's the perfect time to take a closer look at their offerings.
The new fast casual taqueria, located just 20 minutes North of Milwaukee at 105 W. Freistadt Rd. in Thiensville, focuses on the traditional dishes of Guadalajara, Mexico, offering a menu of tacos, bowls, burritos and sides that shine a light on the area’s fresh, vibrant flavor profiles.
From Guadalajara to Thiensville
The concept for the taqueria took root thanks to Marisol Rojas, a friend of the Dailys who introduced them to the broad ranging flavor profiles and traditional preparations she grew up enjoying with her family in Guadalajara.
When Falafel Guys made their move to the Mequon Public Market last summer and the former Pizza Hut on Freistadt Road became available, Barkha Daily says it sparked their interest.
“For years, we’ve talked about how amazing that location was,” she says. “The traffic flow is good, and it’s right off of the Ozaukee County bike trails. So, when it became available, we started discussing the possibilities. At that point, we realized that we could fill the void of authentic tacos in the area while creating delicious, flavorful food.”
With Rojas’ guidance, and the help of dedicated staff including general manager Drew Kassner, kitchen manager John Stenzel and co-owner Mathew Buerosse, the Daily Taco + Cantina concept was born.
Inside those tacos
The Daily Taco menu is concise, featuring seven protein or vegetable fillings (and complementary accompaniments) which can be enjoyed in the form of tacos, burritos or bowls.
Among the accompaniments are five housemade salsas, each of which is cleverly named after an emotion. The flavor profiles range from Furiosa “furious” (salsa taquera: the hottest of the bunch, made with chile de arbol, garlic and tomatillos) to Alegre “happy” (pico de gallo). Other options include Enojada “angry” (salsa verde: tomatillo, jalapeno, onion); Salvaje “indifferent” (chipotle aderezo: mayo, chipotle, mustard, black pepper); and Serena “at peace” (salsa de aguacate: avocado, tomatillo, jalapeno and cilantro).
Salsas are also available served alongside warm tortilla chips ($4, with a choice of salsa) or purchased separately for $1-2 each. They’re all delicious, so you’ll want to sample them all.
Tacos are made with doubled six inch tortillas made by Tortilleria El Sol, a family-owned business on Milwaukee’s South Side and served Guadalajara-style with a side of pickled red onion, radishes and lime.
Guests can also opt to enjoy their taco fillings in burrito form (wrapped in a flour tortilla with rice and refried beans); as a burrito bowl (served atop rice and beans); or as a salad bowl (served on a bed of lettuce and beans).
As for the proteins, choices include:
Tinga de pollo: Pulled chicken thighs braised in a red sauce made from tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro and Mexican oregano and finished with sauce that’s been flavored with chipotle. The chicken is tender, moist and richly nuanced by the complex sauce. Tinga is accompanied by avocado, pickled red onion and cilantro ($12.50 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl).
Puerco deshebrado con pinia: Pork that’s marinated and braised with pineapple, vinegar, cumin, annatto, ancho and guajillo peppers. The pork is then pulled and finished with a sauce that underscores the pineapple, giving it a flavor profile similar to al pastor. The puerco is served with onion, cilantro and Furiosa salsa ($12.50 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl).
Molida de res: Seasoned ground Wagyu beef that’s been sauteed with aromatics including Mexican oregano, garlic and cumin. This traditional Guadalajaran preparation is the closest you’ll find to an American style ground beef taco; but it packs in more flavor, especially when accommpanied by cilantro, onion, garlic and Serena salsa ($12.90 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl).
Pescado capeado: Mexican beer battered Corvina (a firm white saltwater fish that’s similar to sea bass in both flavor and texture). Not unlike a Baja-style fish taco, the pescado is served with fresh cabbage, Alegre salsa and Salvaje ($12.50 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl).
Filete de res: Marinated flank steak, grilled over an open flame and then chopped. These are simple, flavorful steak tacos with a distinctive umami flavor that’s only enhanced by the accompanying Alegra annd Enojada salsas ($14.50 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl).
Vegetales guisados: A melange of chayote squash, zucchini and onion seasoned with tomatillo, annatto and Mexican oregano, giving it a simultaneously bright, yet deeply earthy flavor. The vegetables are served with crisp purple cabbage, cilantro and Alegre and Enojada salsas ($12.50 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl).
Birria cordero o res: This traditional preparation uses lamb that’s been marinated and braised in stock with warm spices (think: garlic, bay, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) that complement its rich flavor. The lamb is served in tortillas that have been dipped in consomme (a broth flavored with ancho, guajillo, garlic, onion, tomato and spices) and seared on the flat top. It’s topped with onion and cilantro and served with a cup of consomme for dipping ($14.50 for three tacos, a burrito or a bowl). For those who would prefer, the birria tacos can also be filled with molida de res (sauteed ground Waygu). For the ultimate experience, guests can also order their birria made with consomme-dipped and seared tortillas that are filled with cheese for $1 more.
On the side
As for the sides, you’ll find items like taco dorado (taquito) filled with chicken or beans (three for $7.50); totopos (chips) and salsa or guacamole ($4 or $6); and blistered jalapenos ($1 each).
One thing you won’t find are the expected sides of black or pinto beans. That’s because those aren’t beans commonly eaten in Guadalajara. But, if you enjoy flavorful beans, be sure to order a side of the frijoles, which are made with Peruano beans, a creamy white bean that’s native to Peru.
The beans are absolutely delicious, cooked with tomatoes, onions, garlic, paprika and both ancho and guajillo peppers. The broth is rich and deep (and vegan!). The beans are available whole or refried ($3 for a small cup… if you love beans, order two!).
Meanwhile, arroz rojo (Mexican rice) is made traditionally with tomato and garlic and studded with peas and carrots ($3). Those who’d prefer it can also indulge in flavorful cauliflower rice; it’s been seasoned similarly, but takes on a whole new layer of flavor thanks to the nutty, sweet cauliflower ($4).
Guests will also find a wide range of beverages from housemade horchata ($4) to Mexican Coke and Jarritos (mandarin, guava, fruit punch) for $3.50, along with Mexican and domestic beer ($4.75), house wines ($7) and a selection of bottled house-made cocktails ($8-12).
Don’t sleep on the margaritas.The margarita de guayaba is redolent with fruity guava and tastes like a gorgeous summer day. And the Down in Mexico will take you right back to the cheel, where they served this tasty riff on a traditional margarita using grilled hickory smoked lemon juice, apricot liqueur and grapefruit zest. Serve it in a salt-rimmed glass and you can close your eyes and transport yourself back to the days before the fire.
And yes! There’s dessert. Try the jericalla, a custard-based dessert that’s a cross between creme brulee and flan, featuring egg custard that’s been cooked until it caramelizes ($7). You can also order Tropical Pops in flavors like zapote (papaya), coffee, tamarind, tropical and hot pineapple ($3).
Daily Taco + Cantina offers carry-out only. Call to pre-order your food (be sure to call early if you want a specific pick-up time) for pick-up at the counter or from the restaurant’s convenient drive-thru.
Hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.