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Sophia's Bakery & Cafe

Madison WI

831 e johnson st, madison WI 53703
sat-sun 8am-2pm

Sophia's Bakery & Cafe (Madison WI) - taco review

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Rating: 83
Price: $$$$

We must first and foremost remember that Sophia's is not a Mexican restaurant. While the name 'Sofia' can conjure up images of beautiful Latina women pressing tortillas and slow-cooking beans in a cauldron over a fire, 'Sophia' is generally more reminiscent of time spent pondering things less important than tacos (e.g. religion, wisdom, etc.). While the tacosmog hivemind has sent business associates out to sample non-taqueria-tacos before, results are generally mediocre.

With absolutely none of this in mind, my business associate John and I walked over to a Sunday brunch to Sophia's in Madison. Their menu happened to have black bean tacos on it, so I placed an order. Breakfast tacos aren't something new to the tacosmog palate - we've had them in Austin. Also, esteemed business associate Ben has moved there to work on an in-depth research project to turn waste agricultural products into delicious tacos for developing nations, so it is likely that breakfast tacos from 'the motherland' will rise again. However, Sophia's marks the first attempt at mixing a 'breakfast taco' with a 'non-taqueria taco', to decidedly thought-provoking results.

After placing our orders, my business associate and I grabbed a prime seat at a conference table and scouted the place out. The ambience at Sophia's is pleasant, with communal-style seating, plenty of mismatched mugs and 'DIY' decorations, and attractice women walking in and out with some degree of regularity. It was a misty morning reminiscent of November in Seattle, but it appeared that on clear days there was some outdoor seating available. The menu was small enough to make decisions fairly easily (especially if you wanted tacos), but not too small as to feel limiting. After not too long of a wait, the tacos came out.

Things felt right. We had double corn tortillas, stacked with melted cheddar and jack cheese, black beans, green tomatillo salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. On the side was a mess of eggs and home-fries-style potatoes. Slight cause for concern was the morphology of the guacamole - it was clearly squeezed into a pile, which typically indicates Avocado's Number-brand store-bought guacamole or something of the like, though they could have made their own and put it into a cake froster. The taste was mild, though, like guacamole that had been refrigerated without lime juice. In fact, mild was the operative word for most of the taco, much as it was at Maggie Bluffs (another non-taqueria taco acquisition). The tortillas were warmed and snappy with a mild corn flavor. The cheese, of course, was not terribly sharp, and the meltiness provided a nice, even flavor distribution. The beans were bean-y without much seasoning. And, of course, I'm a sucker for the smooth, distributed-milding effects of sour cream. Even the tomatillo salsa didn't have much kick to it.

Now, this is not wholly unexpected for a Wisconsonian breakfast dish. Food here tends to be not-too-spicy, and there's a general brunch ideology of 'easy on the stomach', perhaps because brunches are often preferred by those who had been drinking the night before. Not being one of the people in question here, I was disappointed by the lack of kick, but some Purolator-style DIY modifications quickly enhanced my meal. I cut off a hunk of the eggs and shoved it right into the taco, then poured on some of the house Louisiana-style hot sauce. For some (fairly obvious) reason, I've never found a better combination than sour cream, eggs, and hot sauce in one place, and Sophia's was no exception to the rule. Their eggs were particularly good, with a bit of savory flavor and an eggcellent level of fluffiness.

Now the question arises: do I rate the taco as presented (sans egg), or in its most optimal form (covered in egg)? For fair comparison with Austin's breakfast taco empire, it is important to have egg involved, and indeed one would normally expect that Sophia intended us to layer the egg on top (Sofia definitely would have). However, remember that Sophia also served us the home fries. There was obviously insufficient taco space to add both home fries and potatoes, and then we're getting into more of a 'breakfast burrito' vibe anyways. It seems that the natural pairing would be egg + potato and tacos solo, rather than egg + tacos and potatoes solo. Perhaps Sophia is just a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose, and she wanted to make the minimal number of taco-related decisions for us - a sort of 'buffet on a plate' (or, as they call it in Mexican restaurants, 'fajita'). Rating the tacos as they had the potential to be, their mark would be a few points higher; however, based on the presentation, we've got to try to read into the mind of Sophia, and eat them as She would have wanted us to.

On a side note, Sophia had also made and/or acquired a cabinet full of delicious-looking baked goods, which deserve mention due entirely to how delicious they looked.

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