Silly & Spicy: New downtown EC Mexican spot picks a peppier pepper

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THE TACO THE TOWN. Juan and Sheila Arredondo recently moved to Eau Claire to open the Silly Serrano, 329 Riverfront Terrace, just across from Phoenix Park. The restaurant was formerly Smiling Moose Deli.
THE TACO THE TOWN. Juan and Sheila Arredondo recently moved to Eau Claire to open the Silly Serrano, 329 Riverfront Terrace, just across from Phoenix Park. The restaurant was formerly Smiling Moose Deli.

Downtown Eau Claire is heating up amid a harsh winter with the addition of a new restaurant: The Silly Serrano. Juan and Sheila Arredondo moved to Eau Claire in November with their two sons to open this Mexican quick-service restaurant at 329 Riverfront Terrace, the former location of Smiling Moose Deli. The new eatery opened March 1.

“We wanted to do our own thing.” Sheila said.  “We were kind of just getting sick of the fast pace, the grind.” She and Juan each have 20 years of experience in food service, from serving to cooking and kitchen management. They have lived somewhat nomadically throughout the years, and wanted to find a place to settle down while they raise their children.

Juan and Sheila met in Minneapolis more than 20 years ago, but parted ways after about a year. Juan reached out to Sheila several times, but they didn’t reconnect until 2010. Sheila had just decided she wanted to get married and have children when she heard from Juan over Facebook. They had a beachside ceremony in California shortly thereafter. Eventually, they wound up back in Sheila’s hometown of Eau Claire.

“When we found this space, it was perfect,” Sheila said.  “I love the location, it’s a great size for us.” Being in Eau Claire means they are close to her family, as well. Her sister-in-law will plant serrano peppers this spring to grow a portion of the restaurant’s supply. 

Juan plans to source some of the ingredients for the Silly Serrano from local farms, and from the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market just across the street. Salsas will be made fresh, and all of the meats Juan and Sheila use will be hormone- and antibiotic-free and marinated in-house.

“If I’m not going to eat it, I don’t want to sell it to other people,” Sheila said. She keeps her home cooking hormone- and antibiotic-free, and wants to give restaurant-goers the same.

Silly Serrano will also provide some vegetarian and gluten-free options. “Mexican cooking is awesome because with corn tortillas, a lot of things already are gluten free,” Sheila said.

The menu is simple, featuring burritos, taco plates, traditional street tacos, and “Gringo Tacos,” among other things. Juan is using his mother’s recipe for Chicken Mole, a chocolate-and-spice-marinated chicken with white rice and corn tortillas. Juan’s special ingredient is the serrano pepper: a spicier stand-in for the more widely used jalapeño. 

The couple wants Silly Serrano to be a good spot for a quick lunch. They eventually plan to use a drive-up window for take-out orders and will ideally branch into breakfast and late-night service.

Silly Serrano Mexican Restaurant, 329 Riverfront Terrace, Eau Claire, will be open seven days a week, 11am-9pm.  More information is available online at sillyserrano.com.

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