Kompali, the long-awaited modern taqueria at 1205 E. Brady St., opens today at 11 a.m.
Kompali means "compadres" in Nahuatl, a language widely spoken in both central and western Mexico. It’s a reference to the friendliness and hospitality folks will find at the new taqueria. But it’s also a reflection on the friendship between owners Karlos Soriano and Paco Villar, whose common interests and family recipes have come together in magical ways at their restaurant C-Viche in Bay View.
The bright window-rich space, which was the former home to Cempazuchi, has taken on a new, more modern look with bright blue walls, an expanded bar and a quiet dining area overlooking the kitchen and expo area.
Artistic touches include a mural behind the bar, created by local artist Cassandra Alonzo, which depicts the process by which agave is transformed into mezcal, the smoky sister spirit to tequila. More hand-drawn art can be found in the dining room to the west, and Soriano says that Alonzo will be adding additional artistic work, including phrases referencing tequila and mezcal, as time moves forward.
Both spirits are featured generously at Kompali’s bar, which showcases a variety of cocktails – from a house margarita (pictured, $7) and fruit flavored margaritas (mango, strawberry, raspberry, cucumber, pineapple and horchata, $8) to the tamarinde with tequila, cointreau, lime, syrup and tamarind puree ($12) and paloma with tequila, lime, salt and sour soda ($8).
Mezcal cocktails include the gengibre with mezcal, ginger liqueur, mango puree, lime, syrup and muddled cilantro ($12), the pina with pineapple, lime and syrup (pictured, $12), a mezcal mule ($10) and a mezcal old fashioned with Mezcal Montelobos and Bittercube Corazon bitters, served up sweet or sour (pictured, $8).
On the beer side, there are bottled cervecas from brands including Tecate, Pacifico, Dos Equis, Modelo, Sol and Xingu ($5 each), along with domestic offerings including Bud Light, Miller Lite and High Life ($3) and a tap list featuring Negra Modelo, Pacifico, Spotted Cow, Lakefront IPA and Riverwest Stein, Fantasy Factory IPA and Miller Lite ($5).
Among starters are nopales fritos, breaded and fried cactus served with cilantro cream for dipping ($12).
Other appetizers include standards like freshly fried corn chips with fire roasted tomato salsa or guacamole ($3.50, $9) along with esquite (street corn with feta, cilantro and chipotle crema, $6), chile con queso ($9) nachos featuring duck, melted cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and avocado aioli ($13) and shrimp ceviche ($9), a nod to the cuisine served at C-Viche.
There are tortas, including the Milanesa featuring breaded chicken or beef served on a traditional bolillo roll with panela cheese, tomatoes, onions, mayo and jalapenos ($7.50); the jamon with ham, Oaxaca cheese, onions, tomato and avocado ($6.50) and carnitas featuring braised pork, pickled red onions and jalapenos ($8.50).
Salads include the ensalada grande with spring mix, corn, black beans, pickled radishes, onions, feta and a creamy cilantro dressing ($9) and the "gringo" side salad with spring mix, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a citrus vinaigrette ($6).
As for tacos, you’ll find two sections on the menu. "Paco’s Tacos" feature more traditional options served on corn tortillas that are made in-house daily. Options include carnitas featuring pork shoulder, cilantro and onions ($3.50), housemade chorizo with queso fresco, cilantro and onions ($3), beef barbacoa made with brisket and pickled red onion ($4), the de alambre with grilled beef, ham, chopped bacon, onions and green peppers ($3) and tinga featuring grilled marinated chicken with onions and cilantro ($2).
Meanwhile, al pastor tacos are made with seasoned pork that’s been roasted on the traditional trompo with pineapple. It’s served with additional pineapple, onions and cilantro ($3). The vegetarian papa con rajas features potatoes, chilis, cotija cheese, onion and cilantro ($1.50).
There are also tacos de nopales, which harness the crisp freshness of sauteed cactus ($1.50), tacos de tripa features sauteed tripe ($3) and tacos de lengua showcasing beefy pieces of slow-cooked beef tongue ($3). All three are pictured above.
On the less traditional side, you’ll find "Karlos’ tacos," which are served on your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Options include the el guero with ground beef, mushrooms and Monterey Jack cheese ($2.50), Baja style fish tacos with cabbage ($3), shrimp tacos ($3) and cachai with black beans, queso fresco, cabbage and cucumber ($1.50).
Tacos: Baja fish, al pastor, papa con rajas.
Options like the anticucho featuring marinated Peruvian-style beef heart ($3), lomo saltado with stir-fried beef, tomato and onion ($3) and Peruvian quinoa tacos with onions, tomato and cilantro ($3) offer similar flavors to those found at C-Viche. Meanwhile, the Vincent showcases Vietnamese marinated beef and pickled vegetables ($4) and Argentinian steak tacos feature skirt steak marinated with chimichurri ($3).
For dessert, you can indulge in simple desserts including flan ($4), fried ice cream ($6) or churros ($3).
Kompali will be open seven days a week with hours Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (the bar stays open later) and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Brunch service will also be featured on Sunday mornings beginning in the next few weeks.
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.