COMPADRES

Araceli Gonzalez, a co-owner of Compadres Mexican Restaurant in Middleton, makes tableside guacamole. Diners can choose to add garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeños.

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

Compadres Mexican Restaurant, open in downtown Middleton since last June, is a family business in every sense.

“Our family is from the state of Querétaro in central Mexico,” said Manuel Gonzalez, a co-owner with Araceli and Froylan Gonzalez. “Cooking has always been an important part of our culture and traditions.

“We learned to cook at an early age and when we migrated to the United States, we brought all of our recipes with us.”

In addition to the owners, Compadres employs Manuel’s sister Dalia Gonzalez as a manager. Five more family members work in the kitchen and as servers. Together, the “Compadres González” were eager to bring their Mexican dishes to Middleton

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Araceli Gonzalez makes guacamole with ripe avocados (center), adding fresh lime, jalapeños, cilantro, tomatoes, onion and garlic per customers' request at Compadres Mexican Restaurant in Middleton.

On a recent Friday night, Compadres’ back dining room was packed. By the time we were finished with our meal, the bar area was equally filled with couples and families enjoying baskets of chips and fresh salsa.

The drink menu includes classic mixed drinks like margaritas ($6.50-$10.50, blended or on the rocks) and tequila/grapefruit palomas ($8). Cantaritos ($9) are served in clay pots, made with more tequila and a trio of citrus (orange, lime and grapefruit).

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“Our family is from the state of Querétaro in central Mexico,” said Manuel Gonzalez, a co-owner of Compadres Mexican Restaurant with Araceli and Froylan Gonzalez. “Cooking has always been an important part of our culture and traditions.”

Compadres' extensive menu encompasses traditional Mexican tacos and Mexican American creations like chimichangas, burritos and fajitas. But when asked about customer favorites, Manuel Gonzalez responded that diners rave about several items that are unique to Compadres.

First is the Compadres parrillada ($38) which translates to "barbecue" and serves two. It's a mixed grill of every protein in the place, from steak and pork to chorizo and shrimp. Add-ons like cactus, grilled jalapeños and fried potatoes offer plenty of variety for make-your-own tacos. This, like just about everything, comes with rice, beans, pico de gallo and fresh guacamole.

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Guacamole is served on a molcajete at Compadres Mexican Restaurant in Middleton.

Manuel also recommended the molcajete ($14.99), a surf-and-turf dish with steak, shrimp and cactus. The name of the dish comes from the heavy tool it's served on — a molcajete is a pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican stone tool that looks like a mortar and pestle.

I asked, but the recipe for the rich, spicy mole served at Compadres is a family secret. This delightfully complex sauce, usually made with chilies, spices, nuts and chocolate, complemented chicken enchiladas ($9.99), a basic preparation with chicken and cheese.

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Compadres Mexican Restaurant opened in summer 2017 at 1900 Cayuga St. in Middleton.

For a bit of dinner theater, order the guacamole en la mesa ($8.49), made fresh at your table. At the start of our visit, a server arrived with a large tray filled with ingredients and proceeded to mash up two

perfectly ripe avocados.

She then asked about our preferences for additions, including onions, tomatoes, cilantro and fresh jalapeños. After she seasoned the results with salt and fresh lime, we got to taste test the results before she declared it done.

Compadres Mexican Restaurant is run by a family, for families. And with a kids’ menu and lunch specials for students, it's well positioned to be a family favorite in Middleton from now on.