Every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time to learn about, honor, and celebrate the culture and contributions of citizens who trace their ancestry back to Spanish-speaking nations such as Mexico, Spain, and many countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
The tradition—which began as Hispanic Heritage Week—dates back to 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to the 30-day period we observe today.
The first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15, was chosen because it marks the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Additionally, the official independence days for Mexico and Chile fall on Sept. 16 and 18, respectively.
To celebrate this significant time of the year, consider taking a virtual museum tour, perusing art by Hispanic masters, reading books by Latinx authors, learning Spanish with an app like Duolingo, or donating to a charity that works to preserve Latinx culture.
The most delicious way to honor the occasion, however, is to patronize authentic Hispanic eateries. Here are some of the best places to head around Madison to find the most authentic Hispanic grub.
Location: Two locations in Madison
Only a few miles away from the Wisconsin State Capitol, this downtown restaurant serves up homestyle Venezuelan and Latin American cuisine including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
What locals rave about: Venezuela’s national dish, Pabellon criollo, is a fan-favorite here. The dish is typically made of shredded beef, black beans, and rice with fried plantains or a fried egg on the side.
Taqueria El Jalapeño
Location: 1318 S. Midvale Blvd., Madison
Taqueria El Jalapeno is considered one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in the Madison area. One reviewer on TripAdvisor wrote that the meals are “Definitely prepared like back in Mexico and not ‘Americanized,’” with many others echoing the sentiment.
What locals rave about: The fast service, relaxed atmosphere, and complimentary chips and salsa.
Location: Varies (food truck)
El Wiscorican is “Puerto Rican cuisine on wheels.” The food truck is so good that it regularly sells out. Scores of Puerto Ricans praise the food, people, and service, leaving reviews like, “Had the pastelon the other day and it was truly amazing. Reminding me of growing up with my mom’s food. Absolutely recommend. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
What locals rave about: The plantains—the savory and sweet options are both so good that people recommend getting an order of each.
Monona Bakery & Eatery
Location: 4544 Monona Drive, Madison
If you want to try out some delectable Hispanic baked goods, head to Monona Bakery & Eatery in Lake Edge. In addition to sweet treats baked fresh every day, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One devoted fan said, “Ima start this by saying anyone who rates this GLORIOUS establishment less than 5 stars needs to (politely) try again. I’ve been here multiple times for carry out, dine in, lunch, dinner, and breakfast, and each time I’m blown away. A family owned business that delivers top tier customer service and UH-MAZING food, I cannot over state how I think this is one of the best gems in the Madison area.” That’s devotion.
What locals rave about: The Honduran coffee, breakfast tacos, and tres leches cake.
La Pollera Colombiana
Location: 3579 E. Washington Ave., Madison
La Pollera Colombiana is a Colombian seafood restaurant in Hawthorne with excellent reviews.
One happy customer left a lengthy Yelp review about her experience there, writing, “Immediately upon walking in for a late lunch, the smell of delicious grilled food wafted out from the kitchen. Lively music was playing and the place was busy! Being a Miami transplant to Madison, it felt like home.”
What locals rave about: The green sauce—it’s got the perfect amount of kick and goes with everything. People also love the large portion sizes, so come hungry.
Location: 616 University Ave., Madison
If you’ve been craving Peruvian food (or want to try it out for the first time), Estacion Inka is the place to go. The family-owned restaurant is a bit off the beaten path in downtown Madison, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
What locals rave about: The fresh fruit juices, affordable lunch combo, and half-chicken with rice and beans.
La Rosita Mexican Grocery Store
Location: 6005 Monona Drive, Monona
You might not expect to find a grocery store on this list, but La Rosita Mexican Grocery Store has some of the best Mexican food around. The many positive Yelp reviews from this space, which includes a taqueria inside, state that it’s “hands down the most consistent taco shop in Monona,” and that it is “busting at the seams with flavor and culture,” not to mention serving “the freshest meat and best tortillas.”
What locals rave about: Pretty much every taco they offer, plus the avocado salsa and tamales (the latter are only available on weekends).
Caracas Empanadas y Más
Location: Varies (food cart)
Caracas Empanadas y Más claims to be Madison’s top Latin American food cart—and tons of Wisonsians agree. This review says it all: “If you ever have the opportunity to check out Luis and Carlos at their local food trucks in downtown Madison, you will not be disappointed! The passion these brothers have for their craft is felt thru out the atmosphere, their personalities, and also tasted thru their amazing food! Highly recommended.”
Follow the business’s Facebook page to find the truck out and about in Madison (like at the Library Mall, Madison Farmers Market, and various festivals and events).
What locals rave about: The friendly owners, green sauce, and authentic guasaca (Venezuelan guacamole).
Eno Vino Downtown
Location: 1 N. Webster Street, Madison (10th floor of AC Hotel)
If you’re into fine dining and Spanish cuisine, you won’t be disappointed with Eno Vino Downtown. Hands down the fanciest option on this list, the award-winning bar and bistro serves “globally inspired small plates” (think tapas) and hundreds of wines.
What locals rave about: The creative cocktails, romantic atmosphere, and view of the Capitol Building just one block away (especially from the rooftop terrace).
Location: 1033 S. Park St., Madison
When one Redditor asked the Madison community where they could find the most authentic Mexican food, the answer was loud and clear: Taqueria Guadalajara. The suggestion got close to 80 upvotes—which is way more than any competitors.
You can almost see the mouths drooling in reviews. One satisfied customer wrote on Yelp, “My first bite of the guacamole had me questioning every other time I’d ever had guacamole.”
What locals rave about: The chimichangas (including a tasty vegetarian option), enchiladas, and guacamole.
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