I'll be the first to admit it. I'm a snob about Mexican food. If it's not very fresh and creative, I'm not terribly interested. When my mother suggested a Mexican place just off of Hwy 51 on Janesville, Wisconsin's south side, I wasn't really hopeful. Fortunately, for those in the Illinois/Wisconsin stateline area, El Jardin is a gem.
The food was as fresh as any I've had in California - fresh herbs, right-on spicing, etc. My DH had the beef with the chilis de arbol and he cleaned his plate, albeit with watering eyes. He's a big spice fan and most midwest Mexican places leave him cold. The nachos - something I never usually want to see, let alone eat - were tempting with fresh cheese and avocado slices, not premade goodness-knows-when guacamole. My mother's chiles rellenos were freshly fried and bursting with cheese. Apropos cheeses, they use primarily chihuahua cheese in their recipes - never the yellow or orange nasty stuff. Myself, I had only an al pastor taco - my big dividing line in the taco area - and it was spicy, with a good balance between chili and cilantro, and amazingly non-greasy. The chopped onions were sweet and plentiful. The horchata was delicious. And prices - well, the three of us ate for under $30 including a Negro Modelo for DH. It's a great find and worth the trip.
For what it's worth, the locally popular Sophia's family restaurant, has opened a location between Beloit and Janesville. It's middle of the road and edible, according to my mother, but if you have a choice, pick El Jardin.