By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 14, 2004 at 5:44 AM Photography: Neil Kiekhofer of Front Room Photography

{image1}The all-you-can-eat fish fry is harder and harder to find these days, but Café El Sol, 1028 S. Ninth St., offers a bottomless buffet that will fill you to the gills.

For $9.95, the restaurant -- located inside the United Community Center (UCC) -- features a rotating spread of Mexican and Puerto Rican food. A few Fridays ago, the bountiful buffet included fried or boiled cod, chicken fricatta, steak and salsa, Puerto Rican beans and rice, and a lettuce salad.

The boiled fish, although extremely fresh and delicious, was by no means a healthy selection; it was floating in butter. The first batch of fried fish was heavily battered and very good, but the second batch was too rubbery, so load up early.

All of the other hot dishes -- especially the chicken fricatta -- were stupendous and plentiful. However, the salad was a little brown on the edges and the margaritas were weak and a touch too sweet. On an up note, the strawberry ones came with coarse green sugar around the rim.

The homemade chips and salsa are a nice touch. Although the chips are a little greasy, they definitely didn't come from a bag, and the hot, flavorful green salsa is a spicy treat and one of the high points of the meal.

{image2}If you visit Café El Sol during the day the fluorescent lighting can be annoying and makes the environment feel like a cafeteria. But in the evening, the lights are dimmer and the space is cozy and pleasant, with plenty of seating.

The service during both visits was excellent, proving that if top-notch service is provided, a language barrier will go unnoticed.

Live music is regularly booked for Friday nights. Bahia, a fantastic Latin band, provided festive dinner entertainment -- and after-dinner dancing -- the night we attended.

Café El Sol is very family friendly and definitely worth trying. Best of all, it's the real deal -- there's nothing "Chi Chi's" about it.

Café El Sol is open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fish fry is available on Friday nights only. Call (414) 384-3100 for more information.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.