By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 20, 2023 at 10:02 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

’Tis Dining Month, the tastiest time of year! This means we’re dishing up fun and fascinating food content throughout October. Dig in, Milwaukee! OnMilwaukee Dining Month is served up by Educators Credit Union and Potawatomi Casino Hotel

Looking for new spots to try? During Dining Month, Lori Fredrich is dishing out must-tries in 20 different dining categories, from brunch to BBQ and everything in between. Here's what she's recommended so far!

The fare of Latin America – a term that spans an impressive 31 nations – is so varied that one could spend a lifetime exploring its diversity. Even Mexican fare, a cuisine with which most Americans are at least marginally familiar, offers a wide range of regional cuisines that extend far beyond what is showcased in local restaurants. But the Latin American canon in Milwaukee is growing, making it a cuisine that's as fun to explore as it is delicious to eat.

Here are five venues worthy of exploring (and yes, this list could easily be far longer; so it was nearly impossible to narrow it down), which include a mix of staples along with newer venues on the scene.

Al Pastor

Al PastorX

6533 W. Mitchell St., West Allis,  (414) 885-0756

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This family-owned restaurant made a big move in 2020, leaving their tiny restaurant on Burnham to reopen in their current home. The move brought not only a larger kitchen and dining room, but also palomas, margaritas and other cocktails. What hasn't changed? Their menu, which is filled with delicious items like birria (the traditional stew), marinated steak in chile de arbol sauce (pictured above) and staples like tacos.

Don't miss their alambre, a meat-filled platter of steak, bacon, ham, chorizo, grilled veggies, and pineapple topped with melted Oaxaca cheese served with a side of warm tortillas. It's delicious.

El Tlaxcalteca

El TlaxcaltecaX

1300 W. Burnham St., (414) 312-8436

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My first visits to El Tlaxcalteca took place in early 2019, just a few months after the restaurant opened. The menu was filled with regional specialties, some from Tlaxcalteca; and there are riches to be found in their selection of daily specials, which has included items like huaraches, tortitas de pollo (chicken croquettes) served with egg;  pozole, albondigas and pipian rojo with pork.

Other highlights include birria de res (the traditional stew), plus a laundry list of dishes made with the stewed meat: quesabirrias, vampiros, burritos, quesadillas and more.

Don't miss the machete, a masterpiece made with fresh masa that's pressed into a large oval shape on a flat-top grill and filled with guests’ choice of meats (birria, chorizo, asada, barbacoa, carnitas, and more) plus loads of delicious Mexican melting cheese. The three-foot-long, three-pound creation would easily feed four (and it's delicious).

La Dama Mexican Kitchen & Bar

La Dama tacosX

839 S. 2nd St., (414) 645-2606

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La Dama is a strong leader among local restaurants who are setting the bar for modern Mexican fare. The menu is a beautiful ever-changing slate of scratch cooking – from tortillas to sauces – that showcases modern, inventive tacos (think huitlacoche, pork belly and duck confit) alongside dishes like roasted rainbow trout with red adobo, verdolaga and chilaca adobo, baby carrots and herbed rice. 

Highlights include entrees like lamb shank barilla with pasilla consomme, chickpeas, onions, cilantro and chile de arbol; and citrus crusted salmon served with beet puree, chapulin and a toasted corn hibiscus reduction. Both are memorably delicious.

Pupuseria Los Angeles

Pupusa from Pupuseria Los AngelesX

@ North Avenue Market
5900 W. North Ave., (414) 293-1285

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A business that began as a food truck and – in 2019 – came close to opening its very own brick-and-mortar restaurant, has found a home at North Avenue Market [Read more about their story here]. And that's delicious news for everyone eager to explore Salvadoran fare, a cuisine that's largely underrepresented in Milwaukee as a whole. 

Pupuseria Los Angeles specializes in pupusa, offering over 15 fillings including traditional loroco and cheese, beans and cheese or beans, pork and cheese. 

Similar to Venezuelan arepas or Mexican gorditas, pupusas begin with masa that’s been hand patted around any number of savory fillings and griddled until crisp.

The cheese is gooey and comforting, the beans delicately flavored and the mushroom filling is earthy and delicious. If you’re in the mood for something different, I’d recommend trying the loroco, which is filled with a combination of cheese and loroco, small green unopened flower buds that come from a plant native to Central America. The buds are tender, vegetal and somewhat nutty, and they provide a nice contrast to the gooey cheese.

If you like, sample the pupusa plain – but be sure to try it the more traditional way, topped with salsa (guests can choose mild or a spicer version; just ask) and a scoop of cortida, a salty, pickled cabbage slaw that both lightens the dish and offers brightness and tang. Also, these are street food fare, so it’s only right to forego the utensils and eat them with your hands.


Pork belly and scallops dish at Travieso
Pork belly and scallops dish at Travieso

@ The Clark Hotel
314 W. Main St., Waukesha, (262) 899-2520

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Delightfully unexpected. Those are the first words that come to mind for me when I think about Travieso, a restaurant that weaves the flavors of Latin America into a slate of largely familiar dishes.

Humble vegetables like brussels sprouts stand out when fried until crisp and paired with chorizo aioli.  Caesar salad takes on a new thrill when dressed with poblano and lime infused dressing. And beef tenderloin shines when beautifully cooked, topped with chorizo bearnaise and served alongside scallops on a bed of vanilla buerre blanc.  Sweet treats like churro cheesecake and sweet plantain creme brulee tie things up beautifully.

Those are the types of dishes you'll find at Travieso, which has transformed the formerly dark Irish Pub at the Clarke Hotel into a modern destination that offers guests an opportunity to adventure beyond the ordinary.

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.