By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Nov 05, 2015 at 9:04 AM

For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."

If you’ve ever wondered about the best places to find Mexican cuisine in Milwaukee – be they food trucks, taquerias or grocery stores – you owe it to yourself to head over and take a peek at The Tamale, Guey!, a blog written by Milwaukeean, Kate Wolf.

The blog, which recounts Wolf’s adventures eating and drinking at a variety of South Side establishments, aims to offer Milwaukeeans a way to find an appreciation for the diversity of neighborhoods in the area, while showcasing the delicious Mexican fare they offer.

"It’s easy to see the South Side as this big homogeneous place," Wolf notes, "But, looking at it that way makes it difficult to understand and appreciate all the really unique parts, including the food. There are so many things to try beyond the burrito."

The idea for the blog began five or six years ago, while Wolf was still a student at UW-Milwaukee, majoring in gender studies.

Wolf had just spent two academic terms in Lima, Peru. And, when she returned, she didn’t know exactly how to make the best use of her experience. What she did know is that she didn’t want to lose the Spanish language fluency she’d developed while studying there. So, she sought out an internship at the United Community Center.

"Taking the bus from the east side to 10th and National was a really eye-opening experience," she recalls. "In addition to the commercial corridor, I saw so many family owned businesses, and I really fell in love with the vibrancy of the area. I missed the food, the chaos of Lima, and it really filled the gap that I was feeling since I got back."

Some days, Wolf notes, she’d walk over to El Rey to get groceries when she finished her work at the UCC, an experience she says opened her eyes to the richness of Latin-American culture in the city.

"I had gotten to know Peruvian food fairly well," she says. "I’d eaten it and researched it. And I gained a number of skills – being able to identify different ingredients and having an understanding of the food relationships between the Latin American countries – and I was really excited to get to know Mexican food and culture in the same way."

So, she began exploring various ethnic cuisines on Milwaukee’s near South Side, including various incarnations of Mexican and Mexican-American food.

"It was fun. I was always finding new places. And I could go out every day and find a new spot to eat," she says.

Spots like El Cabrito taught her more about the variety of ingredients that appear on authentic tacos.

"There weren’t lettuce or tomatoes," she explains. "Instead, there were fresh ingredients like cilantro and onion; El Cabrito serves pickled vegetables with their tacos; a condiment often enjoyed in parts of northern Mexico, like the state of Jalisco."

As the years passed, Wolf began to realize that, despite its plethora of dining options, the south side wasn’t necessarily recognized as a dining destination.

"For people who've grown up on the South Side or are part of the Latino community here in Milwaukee, a lot of what’s featured on my blog is already common knowledge," she says. "But then, there's a large portion of Milwaukee that's not really connected to what's happening in the neighborhoods there."

As a result, Wolf decided to start a blog in which she could share her journey, and her personal discoveries.

Originally, she thought she’s call the blog "The Tamale Way," since it described her path in discovering Milwaukee’s Latin-American foods.

"But, when a friend suggested I use the term ‘guey’ a Spanish slang term that means ‘dude’ or "brother,’ it fit," she says. "It’s a little bit sassy and very colloquial. But, it also sounds exactly the same as the English word ‘way.’"

The Tamale, Guey! launched in May 2015 with a post on Bertha’s Tamales, a food truck Wolf now counts among her very favorites.

Since May, she’s shared accounts of her adventures shopping at El Rey, sipping pisco sours and Jarritos floats, eating barbeque at El Cabrito, slurping on Mexican soup and making a breakfast bowl with leftover rice and beans.

Her journey, Wolf notes, is ever-evolving. And every day reveals a new place to visit or a new food to eat.

"I’m someone who’s looking in," says Wolf of her experience. "I’m someone who is, in many ways, an outsider to Mexican food and culture. But, I’m also writing about my journey, getting to know the food – and by way of the food – getting to know more about Latino/a culture. In a sense, I’m also sharing my journey experiencing an integral part of U.S. culture – in a very real way – through Mexican food.

A few of Wolf’s favorite eateries:

El Canaveral
2501 W. Greenfield Ave., (414) 671-7118

"They have excellent food; I love their mushroom chimichanga. They also serve a parrillada, a Mexican mixed grill with carne asada, fried potatoes, banana peppers and grilled chicken, along with tortillas and salsas. But they’ve also rehabbed this old Polish Schlitz bar. It’s a really beautiful space."

Bertha’s Tamales
1023 S. Cesar Chavez Dr., (414) 975-5410

"Bertha’s is a taco truck that parks right in front of the Family Dollar. Their tamales are good; and they can be vegetarian friendly because they don’t use pork lard as a base. In addition to tamales, tacos, burritos and enchiladas, they do beautiful things with masa. One of my favorites is the huarache – grilled masa, shaped like a sandal and topped with cheese, meat and other toppings.  And then there’s atole, which is a great winter drink they make with masa harina, milk, sugar and ground pecans. It’s thick and warm and great during the winter months. It kind of tastes like warm vanilla pudding before it sets."

Taqueria Mr. Churro
2333 W. National Ave., (414) 389-9511

"There’s nothing like freshly made churros at a Mexican bakery … eating them in the morning with your coffee. I love Mr. Churro. It’s strictly takeout, and they specialize in bakery. They have a few flavors of churros – plain, cajeta (goat’s milk caramel), vanilla and strawberry. I love the cajeta."

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.