Milwaukee has been building up its repertoire of Mexican eateries, and new spots sprout up on a regular basis. A lot of them specialize in region-specific dishes, while others include every kind of Mexican cuisine, amalgamating cultures from all over the country. What usually results is a menu the size of an Octavio Paz novel, with twists and turns like that of a Juan Rulfo one. What about cuisines that are specific to the Mexican-American experience?

That culture is one of considerable intricacies, as the Mexican diaspora has adopted flavors and cooking methods to each state they are in. No state has successfully blended both cultures like Texas. Texan, more correctly “Tejano” food, is one that has worked its way into the collective consciousness of the American population, with dishes such as chili, hard shell tacos, and burritos.

Victor Lopez, who owns Taqueria Mi Tierra (1401 W. Washington St.), backs up this claim, but also says there is more to it than is usually discussed. “Potatoes and flour. That is really the base of food like this,” he tells me. Potatoes and flour are two ingredients not commonly found in pre-colonial or region-specific dishes in Mexico—but in San Antonio, Texas, where Victor is from, and where Tejano food made its bones, it is the lifeblood.

Mi Tierra sits on the corner of 14th and Washington in the shell of the former El Farol, which was at one time Milwaukee’s foremost Puerto Rican restaurant/grocery store. The place has been remodeled, with the space that used to be the dining area now the kitchen; the former grocery area is now the dining room. There is a biblical theme, with the eyes of el Señor Jesucristo peering out at you in the brush strokes along the wall. The building has been a mainstay of this neighborhood since the 1970s, in that stretch of south side Milwaukee between West Allis and Walker’s Point.

“We want people to come and have Mexican food the way we make it, and what we do here is different. We don’t shy away from the Tejano label on our food,” Victor explains.

Indeed, there is something here not common in Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee, and that is the breakfast menu. Ham and eggs with beans inside a flour tortilla is as Texan as it gets, and is one of the items “people come here for the most,” Victor says. The other item is the frijoles charros, which is essentially a pinto bean stew. Normally, this is made as a side dish at a cookout, but Victor and his wife have added some neat touches.

Usually, frijoles charros are pinto beans boiled with fried tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and a sausage of some kind. Victor adds chicharron—deep fried pig skin—which gives the broth a very robust body that makes it a meal of its own instead of just a side. The whole reason I went into Mi Tierra in the first place was to try this, because Alex Hanesakda of SapSap fame sent me pictures, raving about how delicious it was.

When I walked in for the second time, I was interrupting Victor who was in the middle of preparing food for Mi Tierra’s first catering job. “It’s something we just started but hope it will be fruitful. For now, we just want to focus on our restaurant and make our tlayudas and huaraches, which happen to be our most popular items,” he says, beaming proudly.

I’ve seen the huaraches. They are no joke.

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About The Author

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Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer from the south side of Milwaukee. He only writes until he can land a role as the mechanic friend of the handsome lead in a telenovela. His favorite movie is Repo Man.