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The backstory: Oscar Villarreal grew up on both cattle and vegetable farms in Texas and Wisconsin, which well prepared him to join Madison’s farm-to-table food scene. Seeing a lack of dining options that offered both meat-centric and vegetarian/vegan-friendly dishes, Villarreal opened Fuegos - Steak•Tapas•Vegan on Williamson Street.
The vibe: Fuegos brings Spanish flair to one of the city’s most eclectic thoroughfares. Blue accent lighting, turquoise bar chairs and a lime green steer head logo (that, if you look closely, you'll notice is made out of vegetables) are as vibrant and colorful as the menu items. Villarreal, who has more than 20 years of experience as a chef, had always wanted to open his own place, which is also in honor of his son, who died in 2013. “The reason we built the restaurant was to help the family heal,” says Villarreal.
The menu: As head chef, Villarreal brings Mexican and South American flavors to his dishes in all 10 sections of the menu — tapas, soup and salad, brunch, lunch, dinner and the vegan counterparts of all five. Tortillas are hand-rolled every morning, and primarily locally sourced meats and vegetables are dish staples. “I buy from the tail to the tongue,” he says.
The must-try: If you’re looking for a spot that offers something for every vegan, vegetarian, carnivore or gluten-intolerant member of your group, head here and order generously sized tapas dishes including lamb and rice meatballs, empanadas, fried plantains and more. For brunch, one particularly delicious dish is the tortilla española, which is a frittata of sorts with potatoes, red onions, spinach, chorizo and Manchego cheese.
The bottom line: Madison was in need of another vegan/vegetarian restaurant in town. But this is a place carnivores can get excited about, too. “I’m trying to make the best food around and give people options,” says Villarreal. “Madison has so many wonderful restaurants. I just want to be a part of that niche.”
904 Williamson St., 229-6920
Andrea Behling is managing editor of Madison Magazine.
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