The East Side's brand new Fajitas Grill, 1673 N. Farwell Ave., has a mission and owner / chef Arturo Napoles has no problem making it clear: "We want to make the best fajitas in Milwaukee."
It's a fairly bold claim for a restaurant that's been open less than two weeks, although it does speak to its determination. Napoles puts it into perspective.
"Just like La Perla says it has the best shrimp tacos and Botanas says it has the best of another thing. We want to have the best fajitas."
Specialization is important to Napoles, who runs the restaurant with his wife Rachel and mother Lourdes, who he calls "Lulu." (some of the recipes are her own). Although he lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, until moving to Milwaukee in 2001, he says that offering 100 percent authentic Mexican fare was less of a priority than offering great tasting, high-quality food.
Plus, he admits, even some Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee can fool customers into believing their menu is more traditional than it might actually be.
"When I came here nine years ago, I didn't know what a chimichanga was. We didn't have those in Puerto Vallarta."
But what it did have was fajitas, and so does Fajitas Grill -- nine different kinds, not counting Napoles' daily specials.
"Complicated sauces and moles can be scary for some people because they don't know what's in it. I tried to come up with a concept that is familiar with customers, but also give it a bit of a trendy twist. Everybody knows what a fajita is, we just try to dress it up and make it more interesting."
Some of his menu items are family recipes passed down from his mother. Others are commonly seen on menus at any Mexican restaurant, such as the chicken, steak, shrimp and veggie fajitas. And others still are a nod to that modern twist he referenced earlier, such as pork, fish, scallops and bacon. Yes, bacon.
"We wanted to incorporate new flavors. We use thick cuts of bacon. You can mix it with steak, chicken or whatever you like, plus vegetables."
All entrees include his homemade tortillas, your choice of Mexican or Cuban rice, refried black beans, sour cream and pico de gallo.
Fajitas Grill took over the space left vacant by La Dolce Vita, a Moroccan restaurant that closed just after the new year. Like La Dolce Vita, Fajitas Grill is a sit-down restaurant -- the interior looks much the same as it did as its former incarnation, with bright white walls and sleek, modern black and red accents -- but also does it share of take-out and delivery.
Fajitas Grill is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and offers lunch specials and an afternoon happy hour, featuring margaritas and mojitos.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”