reviews of tacos!

Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Madison WI

3519 university ave, madison WI 53719
mon-thurs 9am-10pm, fri-sat 9am-11pm, sun 9am-9pm

Fuzzy's Taco Shop (Madison WI) - taco review

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Rating: 76
Price: $$

One morning my business associate Doug walked into the office and informed me that he had sampled some local tacos the previous night - "Fuzzy's," he told me, "They have good sides." Doug being a westsider (and corporate headquarters, obviously, based in a satisfactorily smug eastside region of Madison), I had never seen Fuzzy's. 'Could the westside be the promised land for tacos?' I thought to myself. Indeed, the best tacos I've yet tried in Madison also happened to be the westernmost (also the southernmost). Plus, I've often been known to proclaim '54-40 or fight!' and I've always been an enthusiast of Manifest Destiny in general. In fact, this concept led the United States of Awesomeness somewhat close to attempting a hostile takeover of the taco-producing regions of Mexico in the 19th century.

Well, one night I sallied forth, rejected the tenets of the Whig Party, and met my business associate Doug out on the west side to work on some derivations for our Taco Physics class (taught, strangely, through the UW-Madison Soil Science Dep't) and analyzing the mass-balance equation for salsa over a small taco. Seeking shelter and internet we agreed to meet in a Starbucks. As I searched for this Starbucks a sign caught my eye: the Starbucks sign (thankfully, my eyes tend to find what they're looking for). BUT- immediately below the Starbucks logo, sharing a common source of illumination, was Fuzzy's! After thoroughly analyzing the various ways spherical chicken could be packed into an infinitely large tortilla, I grew quite hungry, and we walked the few steps to Fuzzy's.

Upon entering, you'll notice that Fuzzy's is decorated in the 'beach-themed-taqueria' style, meant to conjure up the clientele's mental images of MTV Spring Break and pristine beaches and scruffy-yet-adorable homeless dogs eating tacos and provide a generally favorable impression. Think Rockaway Taco transplanted to the Midwest and placed next to a Starbucks. The essential tenets of a 'beach-themed-taqueria' are:
1. Imagery of large-toothed fish.
2. Vibrant yellow theme.
3. Buckets of ice with Corona in them for sale.
4. Menu items with the word 'Baja' in them (the meaning of 'Baja' partially explored in a previous post).
(5. Optional: surfboard on wall somewhere).
Fuzzy's hit all the major points and a few of the minor ones, also having beach-style flags draped on a few walls. For many Madison residents, Fuzzy's may be the closest they come to an ocean-beach (distinct from a lake-beach, which are omnipresent around here), and it's certainly a good vibe to have in your restaurant to attract the vacationing/longing-for-spring-break set.

At this point you may be eager to read about the tacos. Well, I was too, so I craned my neck upwards at the menu, and ordered the 'Taco Plate' - 2 tacos (shredded beef and chicken), 2 sides (Latin fried potatoes and black beans), $6.49.The first shock: black beans, at Fuzzy's, means black bean soup. Hot soup is generally welcome on a cold night, but the entirety of my sustenance over the past 8 hours had been a Starbucks-brand hot chocolate, so I had been hoping for the heartiness of 'a whole mess of beans.' In fact, I had planned on mixing them thoroughly with the Latin fried potatoes and feasting. However, apart from this shock, the sides were (as Doug reported) quite good. The soup was expertly prepared, nice and salty, and the beans were just the right softness (a skill I have yet to master).

The tacos themselves were healthy-sized but full of that space-filling demon, iceberg lettuce. Now I am admittedly a 'total hater,' but I always feel that the bulkiness of lettuce outweighs the textural gains. Other than lettuce and meat, the tacos were on a soft flour tortilla lined with cheese and topped with tomatoes. They were served with a 2oz container of salsa on the side for application at my leisure. Unfortunately, the salsa was a dud - basically a vinegar-rich, runny hot sauce. Pretty evidently not made in house, and more likely than not simple Texas Pete hot sauce. The meats themselves were reasonable; the pork had a mild marinade flavor, and the chicken was nice and tender. Unfortunately, despite years of taco-eating practice, the tortilla had disintegrated almost entirely by the time I reached the halfway point of my first taco. As any experienced tacophile knows, once a tortilla starts to fracture around the point of greatest loading (the 'bite point'), there's no stopping a backwards propagation of the crack until all your fillings are on the plate. Your options are acquiring a fork or shoving the whole taco in your mouth. I generally go for an intermediate strategy, eating a bit faster but admitting that some taco may need to be consumed later.

The second taco had even worse problems. The crack started before the halfway point, and loss of fillings was unavoidable. While this may seem more of an aesthetic concern, it does have two important implications for taco enjoyment:
1. Soggy flour tortillas stick to the roof of my mouth in a weird way.
2. The loss of fillings totally throws off the ratio of the various parts of the whole.
Thus, when I lost big chunks of the dense meat, the lightweight and elongate lettuce remained in the tortilla fragments, and my final bites were dominantly lettuce.

Fuzzy's, obviously, needs to fix this problem. There's a few ways this can be done. Most obviously, they can double up on the tortillas, giving at least twice as long (though I theorize that the time gained from additional of tortillas is more of an exponential function). Secondly, they could transfer to a more hearty/thick tortilla, such as that used in traditional New Mexican cooking. Thirdly, they can reduce the juiciness of the meat. They may also want to consider some sort of melted-cheese-barrier system that creates a barrier between the juicy meats and the fragile tortilla. Perhaps this was Glen Bell's inspiration for the first double-decker taco. On a side note, have you noticed that the Taco Bell graphics depict you receiving something like 9 strings of cheese? Visually appealing, but conceptually horrible! But that's a story for another day...

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