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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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Pleasing all palates: Taqueria Marimar in Madison
Modest Mexican diner serves up deals just south of Beltline
The zopes were almost as good as some I'd had in Mexico, with a tender, spicy chicken.
The zopes were almost as good as some I'd had in Mexico, with a tender, spicy chicken.
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

I had not intended on getting lunch at Taqueria Marimar. The plan was to meet my parents for lunch at the 24 Carrot Cafe, a breakfast/lunch spot on Greenway Cross, but it had closed.

Taqueria Marimar, practically next door in the same unlikely strip mall in this industrial/commercial area on the Madison/Fitchburg line (it's just south of the Beltline at the Fish Hatchery exit), was the obvious and easy alternative. The only question was, would the parents, who consider Chi-Chi's to be an adventuresome dining experience, opt in to a Mexican taqueria?

The answer is: yes! Despite the back-to-basics dining room and the somewhat alarming bright green walls, the lunch specials were perfect. To wit: A) the entrees tasted great; B) there was more than enough to take part of it home for tomorrow's lunch (a very popular option in the senior citizen community); and C) the prices are incredibly cheap.

How cheap? The lunch specials, at $6, are massive and include a "Big Gulp" size fountain drink. There's also plenty to choose from. There are "two plus rice and beans" plates; i.e., two chimichangas, two enchiladas, two zopes, two gorditas, two flautas, or two tostadas. There are also a number of one plus one plus one plates (enchilada + tostada + burrito or flauta + tostada + enchilada and so forth) and some other mix-and-match options.

I had the two zopes -- cornmeal (masa) biscuit-muffin bases that hold a topping of stewed chicken, cheese, chopped tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. The rice was pretty basic and the beans a little thin, but the zopes themselves were almost as good as some I'd had in Mexico, with a tender, spicy chicken. Add some of the salsa from the chip baskets to spice it up further.

Mom had the chicken chimichangas -- basically two smaller fried burritos, which gained the seal of approval. It is worth noting that even my generally spice-averse mother found the rice and beans to be "kind of boring."

Dad broke away from the lunch specials to order a burrito, which come in two sizes, "mediano" and "grande." Unless you've spent the morning digging trenches, the mediano is probably suficiente, at $4.75 a super-sized roll of beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and your choice of chicken, steak, ground beef, or pork. The large, at $5.75, could last for a few meals.

Other cheap-eat winners off the menu include: tacos at $1.40 each -- with chorizo, tongue and tripe available as well as steak, chicken, ground beef, along with barbacoa on Saturday and Sunday; tortas at $5 -- these are slippery, sloppy, spicy sandwiches that are almost as big as disc-golf Frisbees; and other al la carte items (gorditas, flautas, etc.) that range from $2 - $2.25 each.

At lunch, the small space is crowded and also does a fair take-out business. While the menu pleased my parents, there were plenty of Spanish-speaking diners, too. Taqueria Marimar is much better deal, and better food, than the mass-market Mexican around Madison. And dinner doesn't cost much more than lunch.

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