190530DELICIAS

On a recent outing to Delicias La Oaxaquena in Janesville, Helene Ramsdell—a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes—enjoyed this order or tlayudas. The dish featured well-tenderized Mexican jerky along with a tortilla spread with mashed black beans, shredded cabbage and avocado slices.

JANESVILLE

In the mood for Mexican food but not looking for the same old, same old? Head over to Delicias La Oaxaqueña, a family owned and operated restaurant right on Milton Avenue.

Don’t let this “hole in the wall” place fool you. It offers authentic Mexican cuisine at its finest, and it is definitely worth a peek inside if for nothing else to pick up some freshly made tortillas or to buy a bag of crispy, fried pork skin (chicharines) for $2.50.

Delicias La Oaxaqueña occupies a fairly small space with a Spanish-language channel playing on the TV and wonderful smells coming from the kitchen.

During our visit, the cook and server—a mother/daughter team—were pleasant and very welcoming. I confirmed they were from Oaxaca, a lively and diverse city I loved when I visited Mexico years ago.

The restaurant’s drink menu is limited to Mexican sodas, cola, horchata and tepache. The owners make their own horchata using not milk but rice water. The tepache is pineapple juice that has been slightly fermented and is very refreshing, although it might be an acquired taste. Ask for a sample first to see if you like it.

Delicias La Oaxaqueña’s menu is small but unique, starting with the complimentary chips and a warm black bean dip. There were two choices of sauce in squeeze bottles on the table. While the red was caliente (hot), the homemade green was mild and yummy. We ended up trying it on everything.

I ordered the delicias dish ($14.99), which resembled a sampler platter with a bit of everything. Along with a thin steak, large roasted green onions and cactus, there were two more meats on the plate: a pork jerky (very nice) and chorizo. Chorizo can be greasy, but this was flat and dry and delicious.

My favorite item was the house-made tortilla. I plan to go back for a tortilla and huevos breakfast that is only served in the morning.

Jennifer selected the taco special ($10), which consisted of four tacos, black beans with crumbled queso fresco, Mexican rice and a cucumber/radish salad. The only catch was all four tacos had to be of the same variety. She chose chicken, but other options include steak, barbacoa, Mexican jerky, head, pork or chorizo.

Loads of white- and dark-meat chicken were wrapped in a house-made corn tortilla with plenty of fresh cilantro and chopped white onions. It was pleasantly simple and very tasty. Having filled up on the tortilla chips and dip, Jennifer ended up taking a taco home and having it for lunch the next day.

After discovering the dense, nicely seasoned chicharines are made in-house, she also took some of those home, and they were a huge hit.

Helene ordered the authentic tlayudas ($12.99) with regular Mexican jerky. This was similar to a tostada with a plate-sized, crispy tortilla spread with mashed black beans, shredded cabbage and avocado slices. The Mexican jerky, which was the dish’s centerpiece, wasn’t at all tough or chewy—more like a thin cutlet that has been tenderized with a mallet. Helen said it was quite nice and not at all like the dry, teeth-resistant cutlets her mother used to cook.

We didn’t want to double up, and we were too late for breakfast, so Nikki went with one of the only two things we hadn’t already ordered from the menu: a burrito ($8.99).

Like Jennifer, she had a selection of meat options and decided to go with the steak. It was a huge burrito with avocado, sour cream, shredded lettuce and rice and beans competing for space with the seasoned beef.

The tortilla wrap also had a nice, crisp texture and was not at all soft or soggy. The sauces at the table added a dash of flavor, but the burrito was just as good by itself. Jennifer also ordered horchata ($2.99), one of her favorite drinks, to go with the meal.

We all agreed the homemade tortillas were excellent, and there is one cook whose sole job is to make them. If you want to purchase some for home, order them before you’re ready to go because this isn’t a fast-food joint. And if you end up getting the tortillas home before devouring them on the way, we found they are wonderful with butter.

Many restaurants have come and gone from this particular location. We’re hoping Delicias la Oaxaqueña will remain.

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The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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