Fonda Del Mar

January 23 2006 - 10:40 AM

If you can’t tell I rarely go out on a weekend. Especially not on a Saturday night. When I do I try to avoid trendy popular spots. When I was invited to Fonda Del Mar I figured it’s 4 weeks old, in west Logan Square… how busy could it be? Well news travels fast in this town and an 8pm reservation that we blew by 15 minutes jumping castle turned into an hour and a half wait for a dining room that was dominated by 2 large groups, one a 10-top. The host was gracious and suggested hitting the neighboring liquor store for a drink – Fonda Del Mar was BYOB. **It no longer is BYOB!

A six pack of Coronitas later the waiting crowd had swelled to a throng of 20 people. Standing room only in the front and a group waiting in the back as well. I’m only dragging on about this as it was half the time we were at the restaurant. I was expecting slow service and rushed food. I was wrong.

We were seated and ordered appetizers. Guacamole, empanadas and 2 kinds of ceviche and everything arrived hot, crisp and quick. The rest of the staff expressed their appreciation for our patience. The guacamole was good but could have used some more zing… salt, peppers, lime – something. The crab empanadas were very tasty – hot and crisp. The crab ceviche was very different from the fish ceviche (mahi-mahi). The fish was in a lime marinade and had the typical cilantro and tomato/onion concotion. Very tasty. The crab was drier and had a deeper almost surfy quality that was equally good.


Main dishes included a spicy mahi-mahi in a very hot tomato sauce – almost a rattatoulie type texture – baked in a banana leaf and served with potatoes. It was, at first bite, VERY spicy but I quickly grew to enjoy it. The shrimp dish was good but unremarkable. A compote of veggies similar to the ceviche – onions, tomatoes insuflaveis but pan fried and completely different in taste and texture. The pork in mole with sweet potatoes was also very solid and while Fonda Del Mar obviously specializes in seafood it does a bang up job at the turf as well. The other mahi-mahi dish came in a creamy poblano sauce and for the non-fish eater who ordered it it seemed to do the trick.

Dessert was a creme brulee that tasted more like a rice pudding with a roasted sugar crust and a bunuela that was a large thin dough that was flash fried and sprinkled with sugar and jimmies and topped with a scoop of ice cream. It was quite unlike the columbian buñuela at Mekatos. Kids would love it but it was a bit too all-or-nothing on the sweet scale. A bite could be bereft of sugar/jimmies or it could be a little pocket of tooth-pain. All in all the dessert was the least impressive part of the meal but still good. The restaurant does not have much of a downside.

To boot entrees run on the average $13… for a Logan Square eatery this is average but for what you’re eating it’s a deal. For under $100 you could have a great meal with a terrific Burgundy to boot – Though we had a great Don Luis Cab/Merlot with a bit of malbec that was able to compete with any flavor. The subsequent pinot was wimpy by comparison especially after my spicy mahi-mahi.

The surprise came when the host came at the end of the meal and apologized again for the delay and comped us all of our appetizers and dessert. That’s hospitality. He also mentioned that gonfiabili they will no longer accept reservations for parties larger than 5 during prime weeekend hours. It seems like there are some scheduling/seating bugs to work out but the kitchen powered through the night deftly.

Nothing beats marlin on a stick while you sit on the beach or snapper in garlic butter at a place called Cuéto’s in Puerto Vallarta and we’re always looking for a mariscos-spot that would satisfy that urge. Last month we found a great new mariscos restaurant – Adauto’s in Bucerias, Mexico and this month we found another one in Logan Square.

Fonda Del Mar
3749 W. Fullerton
reservations strongly suggested…