Occupation: Owners, with an additional partner, Arturo Sánchez, and a bunch of friends/investors.
Where: La Mestiza, 6644 Odana Rd., in Market Square
Why you should go: This fledgling place has a promising menu - an enticing mix of regional Mexican dishes with emphasis on tradition, occasionally spiked with creative touches.
You're all hombres - where's the mestiza?
Estrada: We chose the name because like most Mexicans we're mestizos - a mix of Spanish and Indian. That's our culture, our music and our food, too.
And all of us come from different parts of Mexico, so our dishes are a mix - many regions of Mexico are represented on our menu. One of our associates grew up on a cattle ranch, where he became an expert at making pork carnitas and Mexican-style barbecue. I'm from Aguascalientes. I bartended and waited tables at typical restaurants there before I came to Chicago in 2000 with the idea of learning English.
I worked in American restaurants and got into information technology, but I'd always dreamed about owning my own restaurant. I had friends in Madison.
We decided to consolidate our forces and open a restaurant here.
Cristobal: All of us bring recipes to the table. Some are family recipes and others come from our restaurant experience. My family's from Michoacán, but I grew up in Mexico City, where the cuisine's a mix of dishes from all over the country. I used to help my mother in the kitchen.
I came to the States in '73 and worked in restaurants in Chicago and New York. About six years ago I moved to Madison to be near my daughter, whose mom lives here. I was a regional manager at Qdoba before we went in on this venture.
What's the house specialty?
Cristóbal: Everything, but it's worth mentioning that all our food comes with tortillas made by hand. I think homemade tortillas really enhance the food. It takes a lot of effort and we had a hard time finding someone who could do it till we met doña Beatriz, who's originally from Puebla. We're very proud to have her on our staff.
Estrada: We make our salsas fresh every day - salsa roja, salsa verde with tomatillo, traditional pico de gallo - we bring a selection of them to the table with our homemade tortilla chips, and some of the dishes come with other salsas. We do seared tuna with a pico de gallo and mango. But we're not reinventing Mexican food. Most of our dishes are very traditional - mole is mole, you can't change that. Sometimes we just add a little creative flair.
Cristóbal: We have vegetarian enchiladas and grilled vegetables. And we use vegetable oil for everything, not lard. We make homemade tamales to eat here or take out by the dozen every day of the week, and we do brunch on Saturday and Sunday - lots of traditional egg dishes, like chilaquiles con bistec, huevos rancheros and huevos Motuleños.
We're doing daily specials that aren't on the menu - today we made chiles rellenos with chorizo and potatoes. As soon as we get our license, we'll be making traditional margaritas and ice-cold cheladas. We've already got some regular customers. Some of them like it so much they're ready to move in so they can eat here all the time!