By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Dec 10, 2009 at 9:14 AM

If I'm dining out on Milwaukee Street, I'm usually at Cubanitas. It's one of my favorite places. I love the vibe and the food is always great.

Yet, I wouldn't be staying true to my goal of always sampling places that I haven't been to if I didn't actually do it sometimes. So, a few weekends ago, my wife and I made reservations at Charro, 729 N. Milwaukee St.

Twitter-sized review: "Loved Charro-Gr8 meal. Snapper and ribs excellent. Service very friendly and prompt. Will be back soon. Hats off, Chef Aaron Bickham!"

Now officially called Charro Tacos and Tequila, the restaurant has taken a bit more of a casual tone with its food in the past several months. But its menu, with Cuban, Mexican and Spanish flavors, delivers, no matter if you're in the mood for big or small, late-night eats.

Since I'd only had drinks and chips at Charro, I was eager to eat a full meal there. We got a great table -- in front with the window view -- and were seated promptly. Our server was funny and friendly without being overly pushy. This, as you know, is a balancing act. But, on our night the service and smiles were near perfect. General Manager Michael Linzenmeyer also was kind. He came over twice to ask us how our meal was. I like this touch especially at a higher-end restaurant.

Beer and salsa started our night. The salsa was spicy, flavorful and even offered to us in a spicier version if we wanted. As a complement, we ordered the guacamole and plantain chips. They were solid.

Next up, our entree selection. Even though Chef Aaron Bickham (former executive sous chef at Bacchus under the award-winning chef Adam Siegel) and the restaurant's Executive Chef Dominic Zumpano have refined the Charro menu mix to offer easy, casual items like a chimichanga, enchilada, a burrito "as big as your head" and its "no way" burrito with lettuce, tomato, onion, black beans, rice, cheese, chicken and beef that's free if you finish it ($26), we went with two of the restaurant's signature dishes: the banana leaf Caribbean snapper and the pork ribs.

At $23, the snapper was one of the better meals that I've had in months. It was hard for me to not inhale it in two to three bites. Served with thinly cut vegetables and wrapped in banana leaves, the fish was served on a bed of sweet potato discs in a very light coconut sauce. It melted in my mouth.

Thankfully, I also got to eat several of the ribs that my wife ordered. They were equally good, tender and just zesty enough. Only $16, too.

We were stuffed after dinner but found room for the gelato sampler. Charro just added the gelatos from Cold Spoons, 5924 W. Vliet St., and even though it's the only dessert not made on site, the creamy gelato was a great choice with the pistachio a true stand-out.

Milwaukee Street can sometimes get a bad rap for being too much show and trendiness. It has that element, of course, but it works. And in Charro's case, great food isn't trendy, it's great.

I've suggested before that you make a list of restaurants that you want to get to. I'll now officially suggest that you add Charro to that list.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.