Cari Taylor-Carlson

Ventura’s Tacos Is The Real Thing

Bay View restaurant has consistently good, genuinely Mexican fare.

By - Aug 18th, 2022 01:57 pm
Ventura’s Tacos. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Ventura’s Tacos. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

I found Ventura’s Tacos on a sunny morning on my way to take a walk in Bay View. As I drove south on KK, I noticed someone wiping the morning dew off the chairs on a tiny patio facing the street. That suggested someone, probably the owner of this small restaurant on the corner of S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and S. Ellen St., took pride in his restaurant.

It was time for a visit. After several lunches with friends, I can report that Ventura’s is a restaurant I will continue to visit, even after four lunches, because there’s more to order on their extensive menu and so far, it’s all good.

Ventura’s is a family operation where several members of the Ventura clan cook, serve, and do whatever it takes to keep a small restaurant up and running. There’s chef Juan Carlos, co-owner, along with his brother and Chef Jorge Ventura Ramirez, a sister, Angela, and a couple of nieces. They all came to Milwaukee from Mexico City. Chef Jorge said when he came to Milwaukee he worked at another restaurant with his uncle until they split, and Jorge bought a food truck, also named Ventura’s. Now he has two food trucks on the south side and a one-year-old restaurant on KK where gringos like me go to find authentic Mexican food, much of it similar to the street food found in Mexico City.

Tacos Al Pastor, for example, are typical of tacos you would find on any street in the city, small corn tortillas, doubled up, and filled with tasty pork that’s been marinated, cooked for many hours, and thinly sliced to preserve the flavor of the marinade. The meat was tender, redolent of spices, and with the addition of onion and cilantro, classic street food. At Ventura’s, you can order your tacos Mexican style with onion and cilantro, or American style, an additional $.50, with lettuce, cheese, tomato, and sour cream.

Curiosity led me to order a Pambazo, another food served on the street, according to Jorge. This was a large circular bun which had been dipped in guajillo sauce before the pulled chicken was added along with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, avocado, and cheese. The chicken was lost in the middle, but with the addition of a companion’s jalapeno slices, all the flavors came to life including the chicken. Because I needed a knife and fork to keep the sandwich off my face, I asked Jorge how he eats the Pambazo. “I use utensils,” he said, “but many people will eat it with their hands.”

Two more classic street food dishes we ordered were the Mexican Corn and Frijoles Charros. The corn, served in a dish and not on the cob as it’s usually found in Mexico, had the requisite mayonnaise, chili powder, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. My companion and I shared an order and I took a second order home because I wanted more.

The Frijoles Charros, according to my friend who hails from Texas where they’re a familiar accompaniment to a barbeque, tasted like a Mexican abuela made them with love. They needed to simmer for a very long time to develop the complex flavors in the sauce. It was spicy, salty, a little sweet, and had that undefinable umami that brings many flavors together.  The charros were more like soup than the familiar refried beans we eat with a fork, and tasted smoky, as if there had been a campfire involved. Instead of bacon, the chef added cut up hot dogs, an odd twist, but one that added heft to this pot of beans.

If you are a shrimp aficionado, you can order it several ways: in Fajitas; with lime in Ceviche; in Nachos; ala Diablo; with vegetables and garlic; or a basic Shrimp Cocktail.

We tried it two ways and the Ceviche and the Nachos blew us away. The ceviche was icy cold and included lime and vinegar along with onion, cilantro, lettuce, and tomato, and the nachos were served warm with beans, jalapeno, melted cheddar, avocado, and sour cream. Both dishes were fresh, healthy, and included a lot of shrimp.

On our visits we also checked out such Tex-Mex dishes as the Quesadilla, Enchiladas, Chili Rellenos, and the Burrito Bowl. The quesadilla was huge; the enchiladas beautifully presented and delicious; and the chili rellenos stuffed with mozzarella needed more heat to soften the poblano chili. The bowl overflowed with juicy pulled chicken, rice and beans. We doused everything with the hot sauce, a perfect flavor-enhancer made with arbol chilis to give it spicy heat.

There’s more on the menu I need to try, especially the Mole con Pollo, Birria Tacos with goat, the Guacamole, and the Chilaquiles.

The next time you travel south on KK, look for the cheerful red umbrellas shading a dozen tables at the corner of KK and S. Ellen. Stop for a meal. You won’t be disappointed.

On The Menu

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The Rundown

  • Location: 2899 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
  • Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon-Thu, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri-Sat
  • Neighborhood:
  • UM Rating: 5 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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