Until a few years ago, perhaps the only destination dining in St. Francis, was Polonez, a landmark Polish restaurant known for its traditional fare. But in more recent years, Carleton Grange added a new twist to St. Francis dining, and nearby there is also a tiny Mexican restaurant called Swayz Mexican Grill, 4048 S. Packard Ave.
Swayz’s food and service ranks with the other Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee area, and it offers all-day Mexican breakfasts, setting it apart from the pack. Huevos rancheros ($6.25), huevos la Mexicana ($6.25) and huevos con chorizo ($6.75) can be ordered even in the evening hours, and every fifth of the month, Swayz offers “Cinco de Swayz” with margarita and food specials with special prices.
A recent visit to Swayz left us somewhat disappointed in the quality of the service, but pleased with most of the dishes, which were made with fresh ingredients and offered some interesting alternatives to basic nachos and tacos. At Swayz, expect to see items like cheese and jalapeno ravioli ($4.25) and posole verde (green tomato and chicken soup-$5.95) paired in with enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos.
We sampled the guacamole ($6) and the chorizo, bean and cheese dip. Chips here arrived hot out of the fryer and were lightly seasoned and delicious. Salsa was spicy and the guacamole fresh, but carried a heavy amount of fresh lime juice. The chorizo, bean and cheese dip was a little salty due to the combination of three high sodium ingredients, but was good in small quantities.
A Texas restaurant combination ($9.25) provided a sampling of cheese enchilada, bean tostada, ground beef hard taco and chunky pork or beef with rice and refried beans. All items were on par with our other local Mexican restaurants, and the chunky pork was fork tender and deliciously spicy-but-not-too-spicy, in a tomato based sauce.
Rice was a nice change from some of the boring yellow rice we have had at other restaurants, and the taco shell was crisp and had a unique, sweet corn flavor. A chicken burrito dinner ($8.25) was slightly bland, but the chicken was tender and the burrito was stuffed to overflowing. Both plates made for more than a meal for us, with the large portions covering the whole of our brightly colored plates.
Margaritas at Swayz were of the sweeter variety, and were premixed, rather than made fresh at the bar. And while we saw many tables that seemed to receive very good service, our waitress bordered on rude and we had to ask twice for our guacamole, which she promptly told us we had not ordered.
Attitude aside, our dinners were well-paced, and the other server was very friendly to her tables; additionally, a manager came over after to ask how our dinners were, which is always a nice touch.
Swayz has non-smoking and smoking sections, although the line between the two is blurred by a decent-sized bar. Regardless, smoke was not an issue here, and there is also patio seating for the warmer, drier months.
The restaurant offers a decent selection of daily specials and weekend lunch specials, and with all-day breakfasts, it makes a good South Side option for something different. Notably, too, there are kids’ portions for the wee ones, and hamburgers and fries if you dine with someone who does not care for Mexican food.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.