By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jul 14, 2020 at 9:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

In June, we shared the news that change was on the horizon for Crazy Water, 839 S. 2nd St., which would serve its last guests on July 2, making way for a new Mexican concept called La Dama.

The concept, which makes its debut today beginning at 5 p.m., is a collaboration between longtime Crazy Water owner and chef Peggy Magister and Chef Emanuel Corona, who has worked alongside her for over 20 years. And it aims to showcase the diversity of Mexican cuisine while offering guests a refined, memorable experience.

"Emanuel has cooked for me for a long time," noted Magister in June, "and I'm learning from him now. I was inspired by certain dishes from my travels, but he has the expertise and the knowledge to create them."

Wine, beer and tequila

At the bar, guests will find a nice selection of both beer and wine, along with a menu of well-crafted cocktails including standards like the margarita and paloma to more inventive quaffs like the savory La Dama with vodka, tomatillos, cilantro, lime and chilies ($10); to the Negro Manhattan wiith mezcal, Avernna and grapefruit bitters (pictured, $12); and The Mexican lollipop with tequila, tamarind, passion fruit, agave and lime and a rim of chipotle salt ($12).

The restaurant also offers a healthy selection of tequilas, from blanco to reposado, anejo and mezcal. For those who’d like to explore, La Dama also offers a tequila flight with three tequilas and one mezcal for $15.

On the menu

The menu, created by Chef Corona, features a variety of starters, salads, sides, tacos and entrees which pay homage to traditional dishes while reflecting a dedication to modern technique.

Guests will find antojitos (starters) like Oaxacan tetelas, corn masa stuffed with black bean paste, cheese, wild mushrooms and squash blossoms and served with jocoque, a traditional Mexican fermented crema ($8).

Traditional pre-Hispanic huanzontle frito features deep fried amaranth served with earthy garlic and saffron aioli ($8). And two richly flavored moles, both negro and poblano, are served with queso and housemade tortillas for dipping (pictured below, $7).

Seafood options include aguachile de callo de acha, a ceviche featuring scallops flavored with tomatillos, cilantro, serrano peppers, avocado and pickled onions ($8); aguacate atemado con camaron, a grilled avocado stuffed with shrimp, flavored with horseradish and served with totopos, traditional Oaxacan tortilla chips ($11); and tostada de pulpo al ajillo featuring tender grilled octopus, aciento paste, caramelized pineapple, pickled onion, arugula and mint garlic yogurt (pictured below, $10).

Guests looking for familiarity can order up the Crazy Water staple, datiles con longaniza y tocino, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo and served with red pepper sauce ($10). But they can also enjoy delicious new finds like salbutes yucatecos, fried masa tarts filled with housemade blood sausage, panela cheese, jocoque crema and salsa verde (pictured below, $9).

The menu also showcases palate-cleansing salads like the nopales y verdolagas, a bright dish with fresh cactus paddles, greens, pine nuts, cotija cheese and served with a vibrant prickly pear vinaigrette (pictured, $8).

For those looking for inventive tacos, there are fillings like pancita ahumanda (smoked pork belly with black garlic puree, pickled onion, radish and apple with peanut and chile de arbol salsa); del mar (seared tuna, avocado horseradish crema and crisp slaw served in a fried wonton wrapper); nopalito (seared spiced cactus, chayote, squash blossoms, queso fresco and pico de Gallo); and tampiqueno (skirt steak, frijoles, caramelized onions, radish, queso ranchero and morita salsa) sold three for $12. Be sure to order a side of ayocotes charros, a rich stew of ayacote morado beans, chorizo, jalapenos, pork belly and crema agria (pictured, $4).

Among the menu's entrees are casual options like the torta de cachete filled with slow cooked pork cheek, bean spread, asado pasado, roasted tomatoes, greens, ajillo aioli and mango and guaje chutney ($14); and the cemita poblana burger with chimichurri butter, Manchego and chapulin aioli ($12).

But there are also seafood dishes to try like grilled branzino with Veracruz-style salsa macha ($22); or salmon encrustado featuring citrus and chapulin crusted salmon with golden beet puree and a toasted corn hibiscus reduction ($20).

Additional options include mixiote de pollo, a half chicken slow cooked with avocado leaves and guajillo peppers and served with housemade tortillas ($20); and albondigas con fideo featuring meatballs and fideo pasta in a smokey adobo sauce ($18).

Save room for sweets, which include chocolate cake topped with flan; molten mole rosa cake with rice pudding ice cream (pictured below); tres leche cake with strawberries and egg white frosting; or churros with cajeta (rich goat milk caramel sauce) for dipping.

La Dama is open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5-9 p.m., as well as Friday and Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Patio seating is available. Reservations are recommended. Call (414) 645-2606

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.