When Nibardo Sepulveda decided to open a Mexican restaurant in Walker's Point, he knew there would be a lot of competition and that he would have to introduce something different from what the already established eateries offer.
Last month, Sepulveda – along with business partners Israel Flores and Mauricio Calderon, who is also the chef – opened Terra Restaurant and Bar, 624 W. National Ave.
Terra does not look like a typical Mexican restaurant – there is not a sombrero nor colorful blanket in sight. This was important to Sepulveda, who is the former manager of La Estacion in Waukesha, a Mexican restaurant with a similar commitment to breaking Latin American restaurant decor stereotypes.
"I really wanted to do something unique," says Sepulveda.
Instead of the usual, Terra has a very natural atmosphere, with lots of wood, plants and large wall hangings of trees and flowers. Half of the chairs, tables, bar and even the panels in the dropped ceiling are made from wood, which give the place a rustic yet modern and very warm feel.
The music selection was different, too. A good sound system quietly played Spanish-language rock music.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant's menu has all of the Mexican favorites, along with a surprising array of other items, such as burgers, a chicken souvlaki sandwich, omelets and seven different kinds of pancakes, including chocolate chip and Hawaiian. The prices are in line with the most of the other Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood with lots of dishes just above or below $10. Lunch specials and breakfast foods cost less.
Sepulveda, who grew up in Walker's Point and graduated from South Division High School, says many of the recipes on the menu are Calderon's signature dishes, including the tamales Yucatecos, chile rellenos and the cochinita pibil, which is slow-roasted pulled pork.
All of the food we ate at Terra was extremely fresh and well presented, starting with the complimentary chips and salsa. The chips were warm and the salsa was chunky and obviously very recently prepared although it was extremely mild. We gave it some kick with a few dashes of the spicy house hot sauce.
The entrees were presented in a simple and attractive manner, with modern white plate and bowls and an emphasis on fresh and plentiful vegetables. The shrimp soup, for example, came with large pieces of very tender shrimp along with slices of onion, peppers and avocado. It looked different from the shrimp soups at other area restaurants, maybe it was the shallower bowl, and was every bit as flavorful.
The shrimp tacos were very good, too, and came with nicely seasoned beans and not-too-dry Mexican rice. We also ordered pancakes, just to sample something offbeat on the menu, and found them to be particularly good – very fluffy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. We will be back just for breakfast.
The full bar offers homemade margaritas, mojitos and sangria. Many of the drinks have a recipe twist, such as the mojitos which are made with tequila instead of the traditional rum ingredient. Other house favorites include the fresco margarita, made with tequila, triple sec and sweet and sour and the avocado margarita that features real avocados. Micheladas – beer, lime juice and tomato juice – are also available, along with a decent selection of imported beers.
Terra has a happy hour, Monday through Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m., offering margaritas for $3.50 and $1 off imports. Every Thursday night is ladies night, with 50 percent off margaritas and martinis and Bikers Night is weeknights from 4 to 6 p.m. All motorcyclists receive $2 domestic beers. (All three of the owners are avid bikers.)
"I always wanted to open my own business and contribute back to my community," says Sepulveda. "It's great to finally have the chance to do this."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.