reviews of tacos!


Madison WI

1851 monroe st, madison WI 53711
mon-thurs 11am-9pm, fri 11am-10pm, sat 8am-10pm, sun 8am-8pm

Pasqual's Monroe St (Madison WI) - taco review

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Rating: 83
Price: $$$$

This review was originally written for The Dish as part of my ongoing collaboration with Madison's premiere culinary magazine.

Gameday in Madison is accompanied by a bevy of traditions - wearing red shirts, buying cheese curds at the farmer's market, crying yourself to sleep following another Badger's defeat. However, the enterprising tailgater knows that their best chance on gameday is to follow the advice of William Faulkner: "Ne'er have I better enjoyed my time in a parking lot, than when in the company of a taco". The taco most proximal to Camp Randall is Pasqual's, located on Monroe St across from Trader Joe's. While the Pasqual's website claims it has been around for over 25 years, the facade and interior looks quite modern, as though it was recently renovated and/or moved. Also, I had never noticed it until this summer.

My suspicions aroused, I visited Pasqual's with two business associates, Harlan & Erin. Tacos are not available a la carte, so I placed an order for the taco dinner (two tacos, beans, & rice). While satisfying for a meal, this is less than ideal for a tailgating situation, where your standard football fan would want dozens of tacos without the filler. Throughout the ordering process I was barraged with excessive questions: tortilla type, meat type, salsa choice, bean style… Eventually, I ended up with a chorizo taco and a red chile pork taco, on blue corn tortillas, with a side of black beans and rice. Both dishes of hot and extra hot salsa were on the side (other options were mild and medium). The tacos were heavily garnished - in addition to meat, they were topped with lettuce, tomato, shredded cheese, cilantro, black olives, sour cream, and significant amounts of green onion.

First, I tried the chorizo. As business associate Erin noted, it's not a good sign that I couldn't tell whether I was eating chorizo or not - chorizo is supposed to be a flavorful, greasy, zesty sausage. Here, the chorizo flavor was drowned out by the melange of toppings flavors, most notably the sour cream. When I isolated a meat sample from the middle to sample, I noticed that it was more akin to a ground beef, lacking the famous chorizo snappiness personified by Racing Sausage Cinco. The second meat, red chile pork, was significantly better. It was tender and shredded, and came apart quite flavorfully in my hands. The spicing was mild but noticeable, even under the heavy toppings. The pork & extra-hot salsa combination was enjoyable, with the salsa providing a smoky kick. The regular hot salsa was tomato-y, but also had a slightly sour flavor, which was enjoyable on chips but didn't work as well with the tacos.

Pasqual's performed fairly admirably from a cohesiveness standpoint. Despite the overstuffed style of taco, the blue corn tortillas held everything together without any major ruptures. In fact, the main problem with the overstuffed tacos was simply that the meat flavor was not able to dominate. Instead, lettuce took up a significant volume, and each bite had a difference emphasis, alternately controlled by black olives or salsa or green onions. On the side, both the rice and the beans were good additions to the taco plate. The rice was salty with a mild cumin flavor, but mostly salt - obviously a plus on Gameday. The black beans were pasty, with melted cheese on top, and a good chip dip. Note that chips must be ordered separately. On the whole, a trip to Pasqual's is fittingly similar to a Badger's game - lots of excitement and nice packaging, with unpredictable results in the end.

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