Taste of the Southwest at Los Gemelos
Joseph Shaul, Staff Writer
March 9, 2011
Filed under Arts & Culture
One of the great unknown joys of the west coast is the taco van, a roving restaurant providing freshly prepared tamales, enchiladas, and more, all for what you might pay for a bag of Taco Bell. From the beaches of LA to the office blocks of Sacramento, all you need to do is listen for the honk of an ancient microbus to signal the arrival of authentic Latino cuisine, free from the taint of Americanization.
Wisconsin is sadly bereft of these magnificent establishments, partially due to the state’s preference for burgers over enchiladas, but mostly because any food sold from a cart in the Badger State is mysteriously expensive. I am, however, glad to announce that we now have an extremely acceptable substitute to this California favorite: The excellent Los Gemelos.
Situated just off State Street, Los Gemelos is within a five minutes’ walk of the downtown campus. The restaurant, formerly occupied by D.P. Dough, is spartan but well-maintained. While take-out is available, enjoying your purchase in-situ brings the added bonus of free chips and salsa – a pleasant surprise in a world where one is frequently billed for tap water.
The menu contains all of the taco van favorites. Tacos, gorditas, quesadillas and more are all available with a full rota of fillings, served with a bottle of the house sauces: green (hot) and red (hotter). For those looking for a slightly more elaborate entreé there are still more options, including chuletas, tamales, and multistrata tortas the size of your head.
Of the options I sampled, almost all were fantastic. The tacos, while conventional, were delicious and the tamales wonderfully smoky.
The quesadillas are especially worthy of note: In place of the standard folded tortilla lined with mysterious white goop is a small pocket of corn dough and fresh farmers’ cheese, not unlike an empanada. Even the complimentary chips and dip were pleasingly fresh.
Less exciting were the sopes, which is a sort of tostada topped with sections of avocado. The avocado was limpid, and the toasted tortilla was stale and quite clearly commercial, which was surprising in a restaurant where almost everything else was made fresh. The chicken taco I ordered was also significantly more bland than its’ siblings, with unseasoned poultry and flavorless cheese.
Los Gemelos is a good Mexican restaurant, but it has one attribute that makes it rise above the rest. While it may have lost the mobility and food parasites of the taco van, it has retained its most important aspect: The price tag. I have routinely visited Los Gemelos and obtained lunch – usually one gordita al pastor and one tamale – for the sum of $4.50. It’s fantastic value for money.
Whether you’re looking for an authentic plate of menudo or just want something filling before a pub-crawl, Los Gemelos has what you’re looking for.
The prices are reasonable, the location, convenient, and the food is stellar. It’s one of my favorite local eateries and, should you go there, it may well become one of yours.