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Wisdom and Burritos on Milwaukee’s East Side

Mr. Señor’s sticks with ‘good Mexican food’ from family recipes

Sep. 6, 2016
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In the middle of a sprawling, fun-as-hell interview, Dude Llanas—known affectionately in the Lower East Side by the name of his restaurant, Mr. Señor, pauses to meditate on my question about growing the business, then lets out a hearty laugh and slaps me on the shoulder. Playfully, but with gusto. “C’mon, man!” he sniggers. “I got it made in this little shack!”

Llanas, who has operated the cash-only Mr. Señor’s for six years and a successful spa in the same spot for 20 years prior, is a contented philosopher-cook, offering wisdom and burritos from a small take-out window tucked away just north of the six-way intersection of Ivanhoe, Farwell, and North. (If you pass the sign with “You just passed good Mexican food” scrawled on it, well, you just passed good Mexican food.)

“Good” is an understated way of describing the food Dude and his brother Sam—who, interesting fact, used to play in the BoDeans—serve through that little window. The house-made tortillas are some of the best in the city, utilizing a recipe from their grandmother. When he was a child growing up in Waukesha, Llanas said his school friends would argue over who got to go over to his place for dinner because the food was so tasty, despite its ostensibly simple ingredients of rice, beans, meat and tortillas. With everything on the menu made from scratch from generations-old recipes, Mr. Señor’s reflects and respects the tradition from whence it came with a menu consisting of nachos, tacos, burritos and a Plate of Food ($11.75) that consists of the customer’s choice of meat (ground beef, chicken, pork, steak, or house-made chorizo), rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream and a tortilla. The plate is heavy, in the kind of wow-the-only-way-I-can-eat-this-is-if-it’s-incredibly-good way, and it’s fantastic: All five aspects of taste are present in some mild way or another, with umami, sweetness and saltiness leading the pack. It’s nice to have these foods naked, but if you’d prefer to cover them up, the Big Ass Burrito ($11.75)—with a name suggested by Llanas’ son, after it became the default name given to their burrito by several consecutive intoxicated visitors—takes the Plate of Food and wraps it up.

Ah, yes, the intoxicated visitors. Mr. Señor’s is perhaps best known for its availability on late nights in the Lower East Side, near a dozen different bars. Llanas, who has watched the area mutate across 25 years, and is a major presence in and friend to the neighborhood, has a great deal of affection for his late-night patrons, but also uses it as an opportunity to teach them life lessons, emitting wavy and beautiful clairvoyance and ethical advice from that little window. It may strike you strange, as it does me, that this amazing food with the freshest ingredients is consumed primarily by folks who are primed to eat just about anything. No way, Llanas says. “Food is convivial! It’s communal and it’s beautiful in that way.”

 

Mr. Señor’s

2335 N. Murray Ave.

414-550-TACO (8226)

$-$$

mrsenors.com/home-page/

Handicap access: Yes

OD, LT, NA

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