Went here with my family recently, and the food was really delicious. La Merenda is a tapas place, but the small plates are not just from Spain -- there are dishes representing Italy, the Philippines, China, Colombia, Mexico, the Bahamas, Indonesia, Morocco, Chile, India, France, Russia, Argentina, and of course the USA (Wisconsin)! ;)
They use a lot of local ingredients, if that's something you especially look for, and even point those ingredients out on the menu, as well as where they were sourced! There are lots of vegetarian and gluten free items, and they are willing to work around any allergies or "aversions" you mention to them.
Our group of five adults ate about 8-10 of the regular menu items, plus four of the desserts. If we didn't care for something, it wasn't because it wasn't prepared well; it was just something that didn't appeal to our tastes.
Note: I wouldn't recommend this for a picky eater. The food is really great, but can seem a bit "adventurous" if you're not used to trying new things. I enjoyed it, but my sister had trouble finding something she liked.
Some items we really enjoyed:
- Patatas Bravas y Chorizo (from Spain): a potato and chorizo dish, and the chorizo in this is AMAZING. I'm going to try to track it down and buy some for myself, which should be easy because they list where they bought it!
- Hong Kong Beef: this was a special, so not on the regular menu, unfortunately. If you're lucky enough to go when they have it, order it!
- Beef Stronganoff (from Russia): very good; can taste the red wine in it, if you like that flavor in your stroganoff
- Desserts: I especially enjoyed the Créme Caramel, but the Car Bomb cake and Créme Brulée (which comes with blueberries IN it) were both delicious, as well. The Tres Leches was okay, but I'm not usually a fan of that, anyways, so that might be why I wasn't too enthused about it.
Reservations fill up quickly, so make them ahead of time. They keep a few tables open for walk-ins, but seeing as this place is pretty popular, if you can't get there early, you probably will wind up waiting. I'd recommend making every effort to get a reservation instead of leaving it up to chance.
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