By Brian Thalhammer | Photos by Holly Leitner, shot on location at Lake Geneva’s Taquería El Gallo de Oro
There’s something special about indulging in authentic Mexican cuisine, and the Geneva Lake area is lucky to have many local, family-owned restaurants to choose from. Whether you’re seeking a meal paired with a cause for celebration (Cinco de Mayo, perhaps?) or simply a weekly sit-down among friends and family, the area’s Mexican restaurants offer a wide range of delicious, homemade recipes using traditional ingredients, as well as an invitation to try something new and exciting.
At Lake Geneva’s Taquería El Gallo De Oro, attention to detail is at the forefront of the family business. Opened in 2018 to fill a need for more Mexican-inspired food options near downtown Lake Geneva, the restaurant uses specialty ingredients and recipes built on a foundation of cooking influenced by styles found in Zacatecas, Mexico. Offering rare, succulent dishes like their birria (available in a quesataco, quesabirria, ramen birria or birria platter), Taquería El Gallo de Oro’s juicy fare transforms the dining experience as you dip the crunchy vessel into their homemade consomé — a rich and flavorful broth designed to complement every bite. One of their most unique dishes, the Enchiladas Mineras, is a red-sauce enchilada filled with queso fresco and onion on top of a lettuce leaf, with carrots, potatoes, cheese and sour cream. Pair it with beans (which are vegan and made fresh daily) for a dish to die for, like many of the options offered here.
Arandas Mexican Grill in Delavan is another family-run business, specializing in cuisine derived from Los Altos de Jalisco, Mexico. When the doors first opened in July 2020, Arandas had a goal of introducing the area to less common Jalisco dishes, many of which were named after popular Mexican destinations. Arandas succeeded, offering diners traditional fajitas, enchiladas and quesadillas — along with unique plates like their Burrito Bandera, San Lucas Platter, a spicy Camarones a la Diabla and the awe-inducing Pollo Kukulcan, a special grilled chicken dish accompanied with a signature sauce made in-house and usually only found in the owner’s hometown of Jalisco. For those looking for authentic Jalisco cuisine complemented by a variety of sauces straight from the family recipe book, this is your chance to sample a taste of Jalisco (and Arandas) family tradition.
Looking for vibrant seafood specialties and a wide menu of over 80 entrees? Delavan’s Hernandez El Sarape is a 65-year-old local dining legend, with a menu ready to satisfy every Mexican food craving. The area’s most successful and longest-running Mexican restaurant, Hernandez El Sarape is known for its colorfully decorated interior, mouthwatering food and tasty margarita selection. It offers some of the most freshly procured seafood dishes in the area, such as seafood enchiladas comprised of warm and crispy tortillas filled with shrimp, crab, sauteed tomatoes and onions, and topped with green salsa and melted cheese. The restaurant goes out of its way to ensure they are using the highest quality ingredients. Owned by the Hernandez family and offering catering and food truck services for events, Hernandez El Sarape’s dedication to perfection never goes unnoticed. (Don’t miss its Camarones a la Fruta — sauteed shrimp with a peach-mango habanero sauce!)
Any restaurant can claim it’s the best in the genre, but only a handful have the honor of being named the best taquería and market by the locals. La Guanajuato, known as Delavan’s go-to restaurant and grocery market, is a one-stop-shop. As customers walk through the door, they’re invited to take advantage of an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, spices and a full deli, along with a menu of freshly prepared foods like authentic tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas and platillos — plated dinners served with sides of delicious rice and beans. Known for their fair prices and the authenticity brimming from every corner of the market, La Guanajuato is a Delavan staple that offers the option to eat in or take and make at home.
“Tantalize Your Taste Buds” is one of the first claims listed on the website of Delavan’s Los Agaves, and the statement rings true. A family- owned Mexican restaurant, Los Agaves offers breakfast, lunch and dinner — tasty combinations that keep diners coming back again and again. Whether you have the desire to start your day with ham and eggs or end it with a full steak platillos dinner, Los Agaves has the goods for every occasion. Some popular items include the Desayuno de la Casa (breakfast of the house) and a highly acclaimed Fajita California (steak, shrimp, chicken and chorizo fajitas paired with rice and beans), among other authentic dishes certain to please. Simplicity, care and a love for cooking great food mark Los Agaves as a fan favorite.
What started as three brothers reminiscing about their mother’s beloved cooking eventually turned into the Elkhorn restaurant Los Tres Hermanos. For 15 years, this popular spot has been serving the family’s secret recipes, curated from a family cookbook. On the menu are tacos, chalupas and enchilada dinners, as well as a wide array of seafood platters — try the shrimp ceviche and seafood enchiladas — all made with the same love and patience their mother put into her cooking.
Full service is the best service, and that is exactly what Lucke’s Cantina has mastered. Located in Williams Bay, Lucke’s Cantina is great for diners seeking an extensive selection of cold beer on tap, fresh and vibrant margaritas and traditional cuisine hailing from the greater cultural melting pot of Latin America. With enticing amenities such as a “Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar” on weekends to accommodate the restaurant’s weekend breakfast menu, multiple TVs for watching sports and an outside patio for warmer weather, Lucke’s Cantina is the ultimate gathering place. One of the restaurant’s most treasured entrees — the Enchilada Dinner — is hands-down the most popular item on the menu and continues to attract Mexican food lovers interested in tasting their famous house-made salsa roja and verde. For those wanting to switch things up or if you’re dining with picky eaters, Lucke’s Cantina has a full menu offering American specialties that include hot dogs, grilled cheese, wraps, burgers and much more. This place is on the border of never-ending meal possibilities.
With a proven track record of excellence in kitchens across southeastern Wisconsin for over 35 years, the seasoned chefs at Bay Cooks restaurant in Williams Bay are anything but new to the food game. When the doors opened in February 2022, Bay Cooks immediately won fans with its menu of both American food classics (including some recipes ported over from the now- closed Scuttlebutts) and coastal Mexican cuisine. Whether you’re enticed by delectable Swedish pancakes or fan-favorite tacos and burritos, Bay Cooks has everyone covered. If you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate, Bay Cooks offers specials around several spring holidays: Mexican options for Cinco de Mayo, an Easter buffet and green pancakes on St. Patrick’s Day make for a dining experience you’ll want to revisit time and again.
PS – Looking to make authentic Mexican cuisine at home? Try our tacos de carne asada recipe!