The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

EC Eats: Plaza Aztecca

A hidden gem at the Oakwood food court
Photo by Russell Teske

The Oakwood Mall has been a major part of Eau Claire’s history since 1986. A place where small and large businesses come and go, a place where people actually want to try on clothes before purchasing them and a place where people can meet and socialize. 

Though I was born in Wausau, I would go there many times when visiting my aunt and uncle throughout my childhood. 

The place brings back many fond memories such as getting my Xbox One at GameStop, to memories of absolute agony waiting for my mom and aunt to finish shopping at Younkers when it was still there. 

As I walked through the mall after leaving Scheels, I passed by a giant pretzel stand, a staple of all malls, and then a vacant shopping space, a possible sign of what’s to come by the end of this decade. 

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I then pass by the PopCon Shop, where I notice a full shelf of Funko Pop figures, which are destined to become the hummels of millennials and zoomers when they reach old age. 

As I approach the intersection of the mall, I then pass by a custom t-shirt stand known as T-Shirt Nation, complete with funny designs that scream early- to mid-2010s from stoner Bart Simpson to gangster Marilyn Monroe. 

“Never change,” I think to myself as the owner makes his pitch. 

As I reach the intersection, I turn to my right, seeing the food court in the distance. The place, especially the food court, hasn’t changed much since the 2000s and possibly longer than that.

The food court is a mixture of corporate chains and local businesses, complete with light fixtures reminding me of a fair or the lights of Las Vegas, with the chairs and tables still looking the same: bland and basic. 

The most notable destinations include Rocky Rococo and Charleys Cheesesteaks to Kobe’s Japanese and my destination, Plaza Aztecca.

Plaza Aztecca, with two c’s, is a place that serves Mexican food and is helmed by a Hispanic staff. It is complete with all of the proper staples from tacos, burritos, chimichangas, and of course, nachos. At the bottom of their menu, it says “Everything is Made Fresh Daily.”  

There’s only one way to find out about that. 

I decide to order the food with the most options, the tacos. My order consisted of one shrimp taco, one carnitas taco, one steak taco and one chorizo taco. 

They were all without the onions, but leaving the cilantro, and would come with a side of Sprite, though it would probably be better with leche (milk) when dealing with spice. 

Other options include avocado, beef, chicken, lengua (beef tongue), nopal and pastor. 

Each taco costs up to $4, which does add up quite a bit by taco number four, but I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. 

It was when they gave me a beeper, which would let me know when my order was ready, that I knew this place was something different. 

After sitting and waiting at least under 10 minutes, which can vary depending on the customer, my order was ready to eat, which didn’t bother me as much as it sometimes takes longer when ordering at a traditional Mexican restaurant. 

Before taking the tacos to my table, I took some El Yucateco habanero sauce to get some spice at my leisure. 

After opening the box, I saw the four tacos I ordered along with a lime for each one. After examining them, it did look like the “made fresh” quote was indeed true to its word. 

There was only one thing left to do after that: tasting them.

I started with the shrimp taco, which had a little bit of heat to it, but nothing too bad. After dipping it in habanero sauce for the first time, I realized I might have made a slight error in judgment compared to the green sauces I’ve had in the past when it came to spice. 

Next, I move on to the carnitas taco. It is a little greasy, but I’ve had this experience when it comes to pork in tacos in the past and it is a part of what makes it so good to me. 

Moving on to the third taco, the steak taco, I would have to describe it as my least favorite, but not bad by any means. The steak was as close to done but just juicy enough to still enjoy.

For the fourth and final taco, the chorizo taco, it had just the right amount of spice as expected in chorizo sausage, and it had me picking up every little piece that fell into the box. 

Overall, I would give the shrimp taco a 9/10, the carnitas taco also a 9/10, the steak taco an 8/10 (due to the numerous steak tacos/burritos I’ve had in the past) and 9.5/10 for the chorizo taco. 

And for Plaza Aztecca itself, I would highly recommend giving the place a visit if you find yourself stopping by the Oakwood Mall, as I would give it 4.5/5 stars.

Or, if you just want some quality Mexican food but don’t want to suffer a long restaurant wait time, give it a try. 

The choice is yours, though, like many shopping malls, it might not be around forever.    

Teske can be reached at [email protected].  


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