By Rachel Werner
Crossing the threshold at Compadres Mexican Restaurant is an all-access pass to a culinary expedition in downtown Middleton. The waitstaff’s colorful attire and attentive demeanor are subtle cues the meal, which awaits will be leisurely— the rushed pace of modern American society left checked at the door. Top-shelf tequila varieties also draw the eye from the entryway, since the bar commands a substantial portion of the front dining area. The welcoming, spacious design encourages guests to belly up to the counter and chat with owner Manuel Gonzales over a margarita—or two—prior to being seated at a table.
“This is more of a sit down place,” Gonzales explains. “We want all of our guests to make themselves at home, take their time and be a part of the family.” The familial vibe is mirrored behind the scenes too, with Gonzales’s father managing the Compadres kitchen, his mother directing the floor service and his uncle and cousins at the helm of another family-run restaurant in Madison, Francisco’s Cantina on East Main Street. He says, “Everybody knows how to cook because of my grandma.”
And the proof is in the piping hot tortillas, expansive list of traditional plates and the fresh guacamole made tableside—the perfect photo op and prelude to some of the best ceviche, fajitas and tamales to be found this far north. “The drinks and the food may sound the same,” Gonzales hints. “But once you’ve had a taste, you know what we do here just comes together better.”