I met Andres Marquez and Howard Dubrovsky long before they started making headlines for their new crowdfunding campaign. Earlier this month, they got a call from the provincial securities commission about their “IPO” for a second location of their popular Mexican eatery – Fonda Lola, named in memory of a great grandmother and aunt.
Marquez, who started working in kitchens at the ripe age of 16 was formerly a partner at Milagro while Dubrovsky dished out molecular gastronomy at the now shuttered L.A.B on College Street.
The cozy Queen West joint is famed for their candied jalapeno-maple bacon and generous shots of tequila. Marquez sure knows how to entertain, which is why he’s in charge of front of house as Dubrovsky mans the kitchen.
Our group arrives for the Mexican fiesta, aka the whole menu* ($150) and we didn’t leave hungry (or thirsty) for that matter.
I’m not one for hype, but upon biting into the perfectly caramelized jalapeno-bacon I comprehend the obsession and am instantly wanting seconds. Luckily, the bacon makes an encore appearance in the handheld Caesar (think lettuce wrap or taco sans tortilla). Eating with your hands is always more fun.
The cheese lover in me loved the Panela popper (think deep fried cheese); the cheese which is similar to paneer, is marinated in chipotle and then coated with cornmeal.
On the dairy note, the sour cream they use is life changing. Maybe it’s because this is the full fat stuff that you just can’t get at the grocery store (like that 84 Stirling butter) that makes you wanted to ladle spoonfuls into your mouth, forgetting all about the calories until you wake up the next morning and step on a scale? I don’t care – I’ll pedal the hell out of my bike at spin class the next day – it’s worth it!
I learn from Marquez that the sour cream purveyor is Asti Products, owned by one Mr. Singh who after spotting the similarities in paneer and queso has now started peddling his dairy products for the Latin American market. His operation is based out of Ingersol.
The fideo pasta dish reminds me that sometimes the simple things in life are the most satisfying. Fideo is the Spanish word for noodle; but think noodle that’s been snipped into shorter pieces. It is tossed in a tomato-based sauce and topped with that heavenly sour cream.
While I normally don a sad face when forced to eat my vegetables or go the non-meat route, vegetarians will be happy to know that salad isn’t the only boring option. The Kale Tofu “Taco” is composed of a cornmeal crusted tofu and dressed with an avocado chile mayo and pickled onions. You definitely won’t miss the meat.
As delicious as everything is, make sure you save some room for churros! These Mexican sweet treats are rolled in cinnamon sugar and served alongside with cajeta (caramel sauce).
Be sure to order a margarita or two like the kombucha margarita or the Smoked Cuba Libre, a modernist take on a rum and coke. The coke is smoked in a bunsen burner-like glass.
Fonda Lola is a great place to go with a group of friends. The drinks are generous and the food is simple, tasty and fun. If you’re having a birthday party; call ahead because Fonda Lola might just give you a piñata. Now that‘s a true Mexican fiesta!