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Happy Grill Mexican Restaurant

Madison WI

2810 e washington ave, ste. a, madison WI 53704
mon-sun 10:30am-9:30pm

Happy Grill Mexican Restaurant (Madison WI) - taco review

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Rating: 72
Price: $$

Having driven by Happy Grill Mexican Restaurant on several occasions and seeing their 'Grand Opening' sign, I was looking for an opportunity to try out Happy Grill - after all, it was the first taqueria (known to me) that opened after my arrival in Madison. My opportunity presented itself over Thanksgiving Weekend. After consuming a great deal of turkey, mashed potatoes, pies, and other such delicious items, we were reaching the end of our Thanksgiving leftovers supply on Sunday evening. We had enough of the turkey carcass left over for an epic turkey tortilla soup, and the decision was made to pair it with tacos. On this occasion I had a great deal of business associates: Jessie, Fred, Sarah, Erica, Erin, Travis, Jordan, and a girl I had never met before and didn't get around to introducing myself to. For brevity, this group shall henceforth be known as the Happy Grill Business Association (HGBA). The HGBA had gathered at Thanksgiving Headquarters North while the soup was simmering and spent some time watching the end of American Graffiti when I put the call in for tacos.

Due to the size of the HGBA and the fact that I had never been to Happy Grill before, the phone call was a bit confusing, but the first thing that must be stated is that Happy Grill's customer service is second-to-none. I ended up ordering 15 tacos: 3 each of steak, pork, chorizo, cheese, and chicken. As I worked through my confusion with the woman on the other end of the phone, I noticed that she was friendly, but nothing above and beyond the usual restaurant phone conversation. Where Happy Grill really elevated their game was when business associate (and HGBA member) Erin and I were driving over to pick up the tacos. En route, we received a phone call (despite the fact that I had never given them my name or phone number!!!) informing me that my tacos were ready for pickup. Clearly Happy Grill went through the effort to comb through flight records into and out of Madison in order to find the groups of people of the size wherein 15 tacos would be necessary; following this, they must have used some sort of combined plane seating/employment records checking algorithm to trace the group of 4 New Yorkers to a Madison resident (myself) and then called President Barack Obama to get my personal cell phone number. This, needless to say, impressed me.

The phenomenal customer service didn't end when we arrived at Happy Grill, however. Upon arrival, they had all of our tacos packed up, offered us a variety of salsa, and then gave us a $3 discount!! When my hard-nosed journalistic instincts kicked in, causing me to ask 'Why?', I was told that it was because of the recent grand opening. What luck! Regardless, we got out of there with 15 tacos for $18.10 (including tax), locking Happy Grill in at less than $1.25 per taco post-discount. According to the menu, the standard taco price is $1.75, so that's a sizable discount. Happy Grill also did an excellent job with interior decorating, as pointed out by valued business associate Erin. They had a very unique concept, which was a bunch of doors hung on all the walls. Maybe these were all functional doors, maybe not - we had no way of knowing. But I believe the final tally was something like 17 doors arrays throughout the restaurant, and that's not even counting the ones that are presumably back in the kitchen (refrigerator, pantry, etc.).

After a quick commute back to Thanksgiving Headquarters North, we arrayed the tacos uniformly and people began selecting. I chose one chorizo and one steak. Both were topped lightly with cilantro and onions and on a double corn tortilla. Unfortunately, the tortillas did not stand up well to the trip. They appeared to have been fried lightly in oil before their departure from Happy Grill (presumably to soften them up and make them delicious) but, by the time we arrived at Thanksgiving Headquarters North, they had cooled off and stiffened considerably. The fillings were fairly standard. The chorizo was hyper-salty, to the delight of some and dismay of others. While I appreciate a salted sausage, this chorizo was simply too much and the sausage was hidden behind a salt wall. The steak was pretty well cooked (just a bit too chewy) with a mild flavor. Accompanying the tacos were two salsas, a red and green. The red was lightly smoky with light spice, while the green was a bit sweeter. While I regret to bash a restaurant with such truly excellent customer service (that also happens to be the closest tacos to my house), I've got to say that Happy Grill did not produce an impressive taco. However, solely due to their friendliness, I am going to give them another shot by eating in-house, where any sort of take-out-related trouble would be eliminated. So for now, Happy Grill must remain on the low end of the scale; but, someday, perhaps they will skyrocket (because nothing's better than eating by a wall-mounted door).

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