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Fire and Spice

Don’t miss Tres Magueyes

Apr. 8, 2009
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With its corner-bar appearance in a neighborhood filled with Mexican eateries, it would be easy to overlook Tres Magueyes. Even the inside looks more like a corner tap than a restaurant. The first room is dark, with a large bar, television set, CD jukebox and a row of strictly-for-entertainment-purposes gaming machines. The bar continues into the next room, where you’ll also find windows and tables. Wood-grained Formica tops the basic furnishings, and the best seats are those near the windows.

This typical Mexican menu features tacos, tostadas, enchiladas and chile rellenos, with one whole page devoted to seafood. A few dishes are marked with the warning “red hot sauce!” You’ll want to heed this warning. People who don’t want extra spiciness need not worry, however. Only a small percentage of the menu qualifies as very hot; the rest is mild to moderate.

A basket of crisp unsalted tortilla chips arrives immediately, along with a serving of salsa. The tomato-based salsa, with flavors of onion, cilantro and a hint of hot chile pepper, is not red hot. Consider an order of guacamole ($5) with the chips. It’s always fresh and made with avocado, onion and cilantro.

Tres Magueyes’ selection of Mexican beers is larger than most and includes Bohemia, one of the best. Margaritas are potent, though the mix is nothing special.

Tacos and tostadas come in numerous varieties and may be ordered singly. One of the tostada options is milanesa ($3.25), a Mexican version of schnitzel. A pounded slice of beef is battered before being cooked and the breaded beef is cut into small pieces. The large tostada is stuffed with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream. The welltrimmed, tender beef is of better quality than you’ll find at most local Mexican establishments. If a fish taco is offered as a special, order it. It’s usually a small piece of perch filet expertly grilled with chopped cilantro and onions. An even better option than a tostada is a sope, a thicker and more flavorful handmade corn cake.

Those who crave hot chile pepper will be in their element at Tres Magueyes. Lomo en chile de arbol ($8.50) is pieces of rib-eye steak in an arbol chile red sauce. Although not as hot as a habanero, it’s close in potency. Camarones a la diabla ($10), shelled shrimp in a sauce, can be hotter still. Also served in this sauce are Huachinango (red snapper) and mojarra (perch). Bistec en salsa verde ($8.50) has a green tomatillo sauce that is also branded as hot, but is actually far milder than the arbol sauce.

Also try caldo de camaron ($10), a large bowl of shrimp soup. Make use of the side plate, which offers chopped onion, cilantro and half of a lime. The broth already has hot sauce in it, and the shrimp are completely shelled. The vegetables in the broth include fresh tomato, onion, celery, carrot and cabbage. (Celery and cabbage are a bit unusual in a Mexican soup, but seem appropriate here.)

There is something for everybody on this menu. Vegetarians even have a chance, as the refried beans are not prepared with lard. Though there are plenty of Mexican restaurants with nicer settings, Tres Magueyes is comfortable and the service is accommodating. The music blaring on the jukebox may be a bit loud, but just consider it part of the Mexican dining experience—fire and spice!

Tres Magueyes2423 S. Sixth St. (414) 383-5161 $-$$ Credit Cards: MC, VS Smoking: At bar

Tres Magueyes | Photos by Tate Bunker


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