Tag Archives: Fonda del Mar

First Impressions

Sometimes, you just know. You meet someone on a blind date for the first time and know it just won’t work out. You walk into an apartment you’re thinking of renting and the weird energy of the place makes you turn right around and leave. You arrive for your reservations at a restaurant, sit down, look at the menu and take in the ambiance, get up and exit.

That’s right, I said it. I feel that sometimes, it’s totally acceptable to walk out of a restaurant BEFORE you’ve ordered anything, based solely on first impression. Judgment and discretion should be used, of course. I wouldn’t walk out of Alinea or Tru, but I also know that they are two of the top restaurants in Chicago.  If you embark upon a new restaurant, willing to spend your hard-earned money on typically overpriced food, why sit and suffer if you know you won’t enjoy the experience?

The other night, Aaron and I decided to try Fonda del Mar, which recently relocated from Logan Square to Lincoln Square. I’d been meaning to try this Mexican Seafood spot for a while, and was excited to cross it off my list. From the exterior, FDM didn’t look that inviting. The space is a 70’s style, squat brick building with cubed, block glass windows (the kind normally found in bathrooms!). We walked in, and I shuddered. How can a place look like an open cafeteria, and yet make me feel so claustrophobic at the same time? We sat at our table and I took in the view of the rickety tables and glum patrons sitting under fluorescent lights. I looked at my husband, and we got the hell outta there.


First Look: Mixteco Grill

For a few months now, I’ve been curious about the little storefront on the corner of Ashland and Montrose, just a few blocks from our house. Every weekend, droves of hungry diners wait outside Mixteco Grill, the Mexican restaurant deemed by some critics as “Chicago’s new Frontera Grill.” Mixteco has received great press, and rightly so. Chef Raul Arreola is a veteran chef of Mexican cuisine, with stints at Topolobampo, Fonda del Mar and several other Chicago restaurants.

Choices at Mixteco are a bit scaled back with only a  hand full of selections: no combo dishes or platters here. Instead,  the menu leans towards rustic, simple dishes like wood-fired shrimp, sopes, empanadas, baby chicken with guajillo and pulled-beef chile rellenos. Mixteco is BYOB for the time being, so visit the liquor store conveniently located across the street. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

mix2Diners at Mixteco, Chicago.

We started our meal with Guacamole Con Chicharron, avocado with tomato, serrano chiles, cilantro, onion and lime served with pork chicharron (deep fried pork belly). I was expecting the chicharron to be served on the side for dipping, but instead diced pieces were mixed into the guacamole. The addition didn’t do much for the appetizer; I found the guacamole to be underwhelming and a bit too mild. The accompaniments of radish, jiacama and cucumber were puzzling and didn’t add much in terms of either flavor or texture.

sopesSopes Trio, Mixteco Grill, Chicago.

We continued with three sopes (corn masa boats): two filled with chicken in a red mole sauce and one with mushrooms and a pasilla chile sauce. The otherwise neutral palletes of corn were elevated to showstopping status by a dose of the daring, smoky mole rojo, one of Chef Arreola’s signature mole sauces.


Pescado A La Verzcruzana, Mixteco Grill, Chicago.

A main course of Mahi Mahi, zucchini, fingerling potatoes and other vegetables, wrapped in parchment and then grilled, was outstanding. This is the kind of Mexican food that’s so difficult to find; un-Americanized, simple and delicate flavors with superior ingredients. The smooth poblano sauce served on the side offered quite a kick!

enchEnchiladas Rojas, Mixteco Grill, Chicago.

We also sampled Enchiladas Rojas: tender pieces of shredded chicken wrapped in fresh tortillas and bathed in chocolately, spicey mole. This dish was so basic, and at first seemed bland in comparison to the Mahi Mahi. But after a few bites, once the sweet spice settled on my tongue, I was hooked and couldn’t stop eating these suckers!

Add Mixteco to your list of places to try for either weekend brunch or dinner!

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