What a change we have seen. From when ChiChi's (RIP) was the reigning Mexican Restaurant (and only outside of Taco Bell/Johns) to now, where we are fortunate to have many. Here is my list of Best Mexican Restaurants in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
#1 Taqueria Sandoval – located in the back of Eau Claire’s first, and still largest Mexican Grocery, Mercado Sandoval, this is pretty much just what its name is – Tacos. And what a selection – all the normal, and then all the real Mexican. They also have great Tortas, Burritos and Soups, along with a couple of dinners. Real Mexican coke, horchata and a decent selection of beers round out your dining experience (plus three different homemade salsas!). The environment is low end tables and chairs, but if you’re lucky you will be able to watch soccer in Spanish. Not a date place, unless your date loves the best Mexican food in the Chippewa Valley. Always amusing to see employees from other “Mexican” restaurants eating their before their shifts.
#2 Taco’s Juanita – close behind is a slightly more upscale place, with a little more atmosphere and a few more fancy meals as well as some of the more traditional Mexican as well as some Amer-Mex fare – taco salad anyone? Still great, still has real “Mexican”, but also offers some meals to those less adventurous.
#3 Casa Mexicana – Chippewa Falls contribution to the top three, Casa houses some of the wildest wall fresco’s, chairs and tables you will see. The food tends more towards Amer-Mex, but still good enough. Full Bar, so that is something not available at the top 2.
The quality starts falling fast after the top 3, although there are plenty of choices. To a certain extent, it is whatever is closest after the best, although each offers something different.
#4 Cancun – We are now moving into Amer-Mex, hot table Mexican food range – Basically they get your order, get out the tortilla of choice, scoop out meat and sauce from the hot table, and serve. It’s fast, it’s attractive in that Chi Chi’s kind of way and the food is better than Taco Bell. Their menu has been expanding, and in a good way. Whole fish, more interesting items has improved my opinion, which moved them up.
#5 Azul Tequilla – a former Ponderosa, the outside looks the same but they have done a decent job with the inside. Full bar, good beer selection, but the food is definitely Amer-Mex hot table food. Meh. Cheap however, which earns it the #5 slot
# 6 Manny's Mexican Cocina – this is the “nice” Mexican restaurant. Brand new building, nice décor, good service, but the food is so so and the prices are the highest. Food wise probably would be the #4, but cost drives the rating down. Plus, I have had some bad meals there. If you needed to take a client or date out, and they wanted Mexican, this is where I would take them. But I won’t go there otherwise – the benefit/cost ration is off.
#7 El Patio – typical college place. Food is good, prices reasonable, but it is in an old fast food place that is beat to crap. Amer-Mex hot table food, but good enough. Plus, they have liquor license.
#8 Burrachos – the chains start in here. Ok food, serve beer. It’s fast. Better than fast food. Think of Chipotle, but not quite as good. Better than Qdoba.
#9 Taco Johns – Best Breakfast Burritos in town. Salsa bar. Little hash pellets. Good fast food.
#10 Taco Bell – ok, I will eat here if I have to. As in if forced, or there is simply no other option. But I will eat it. Taco Bell is the cut line for me – I start all Mexican restaurant reviews with the question – better, or worse, than the Bell? And yes, I have, twice, had food worse than Taco Bell. None in Eau Claire however, so this ends the list.
Chipotle is coming to town – assuming they serve what they normally serve, they will become the new #8