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La Fuente  |  Milwaukee, WI

La Fuente | Milwaukee, WI

Celebrates 25 Years in Milwaukee

Jose Zarate premiered his La Fuente Restaurant in Milwaukee nearly 25 years ago, and it was the realization of a young man’s dream. General Manager Mariela Zarate is the daughter of the founder, and describes his journey into the foodservice industry. “My father is one of those wonderful American success stories. He came to the United States from Mexico City at age 18, with just $100 in his pocket. He had a number of jobs, including driving a truck and working in the tanneries, where he attained a supervisory position. He eventually acquired a building in Milwaukee that housed a Mexican restaurant. When the space became vacant, he decided to open his own restaurant, with help from my mother and my aunts and uncles. We have a large family, and everybody chipped in. We are all so proud of La Fuente. My father has said many times that the secrets to our success are good food, good service, and consistency. Consistency is of critical importance to us.”

At first, Jose Zarate based his menu upon genuine Mexican recipes passed down from his mother. Over time, more and more Tex-Mex favorites were added. “My father realized that to be successful in this industry, an operator must ensure that the menu reflects local preferences,” said Mariela Zarate. “What was popular in Milwaukee was not the same as what was popular in Mexico City.” She adds that her father did not have the budget to advertise when he opened La Fuente. “Luckily, customers quickly did our advertising for us through word-of-mouth.”

Eventually, two more locations were added in Wauwatosa and Waukesha. All three can seat at least 150 patrons, and all boast colorful courtyard patios for al fresco dining. “La Fuente has a special ambience, very casual and comfortable, with a loud and lively party atmosphere,” Mariela said. “Our music is a mix of mariachi, contemporary Mexican and salsa. We are very much a fun family destination.”

La Fuente has garnered numerous local “best of” awards, especially for its margaritas and Shrimp Soup. In fact, the Shrimp Soup is legendary in the neighborhood and the runaway bestseller. It’s absolutely loaded with shrimp, cooked with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, avocadoes and secret sweet sauce.

The menu is a veritable “Who’s Who?” of Tex-Mex favorites: Debra’s Famous Fajita Tacos combine either skirt steak or shrimp with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, seasonings, sour cream and guacamole all tucked into corn or flour tortillas. The Fajitas Tres Amores marries three varieties (skirt steak, shrimp and chicken) brought to the table together on a sizzling skillet, with the aroma of green peppers and onions wafting in the air. For customers who can’t decide if they’d prefer a burrito, tostada, chimichanga or enchilada, combination plates allow multiple entrees at one sitting. The house specialties section of the menu pays homage to authentic classic Mexican dishes, including the Chicken Mole Oaxaca, which showcases the traditional mole sauces of Mexico. The rich mole at La Fuente is made from roasted almonds, guajillo peppers and dark chocolate.

For Mexican pizza lovers, La Fuente starts with a large fried tortilla as its crust. Layers of beans, onions, bell peppers and cheese are added, and diners can opt for ground beef, chunky beef, chicken, pork, steak, shrimp or chorizo sausage. The pizza arrives tableside with sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños.

They say that beer helped make Milwaukee famous, but word has it that margaritas helped put La Fuente on the map. The margarita recipes are closely guarded secrets, and there are plenty of varieties to keep aficionados amused. There is a Jumbo House Margarita for those who only allow themselves one drink, and top-shelf tequilas are stocked for those with a preference for premium.


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