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Fonda Lola

Quite Fond of this Queen West Restaurant

What qualifies an establishment as a restaurant? You have a place where people come and eat food and pay for it; right? It might be a traditional white tablecloth spot, or a food counter, cafeteria, or diner, etc.  Fonda Lola presents itself like a casual Mexican restaurant, but it feels like more of a fun ‘cantina’ that serves some delicious food. And I don’t mean that as a criticism. Toronto needs as many inexpensive spots serving interesting food as it can get. And while chef Howard Dubrowsky’s food is very good, it’s actually the drinks that are the most compelling.

Fonda Lola’s Margarita (the ubiquitous drink traditionally made with Tequila, Triple Sec and lime juice) is given a serious twist with the addition of kombucha (fermented black tea) and horchata (a smoky rice drink flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla) which add a toasty, nutty taste to the concoction ($10.50). It is the perfect start to an early summer dinner on the funky patio. Drinks are garnished with finger limes (unripe, baby limes) which can be squeezed to spray tart globules of flavour into the glass. The restaurant’s commitment to source local where it can extends to drinks. Instead of simple syrup or agave, maple syrup and maple water are used as sweeteners/flavouring agents.

The menu is traditional. You’ll find your guacamole and tortilla chips. The guacamole is whipped super-smooth. The chips are house-made, crispy, hot and flavoured with guajillo chilies ($5). The food presentation is fun and casual. Caesar salad is hand-held. Bibb lettuce wraps shredded salad, and avocado mousse dressed lightly with parmesan shavings and jalapeno glazed maple bacon (two per serving: $8). The ‘beans’ on the rice and black beans, while tasty, had been pureed into a soup-like texture. The poached red snapper with tequila lime sauce was better, light and juicy. Better still were the pork tacos al pastor (also offered with tofu and beef options). A small cast-iron skillet comes full of succulent pork covered in a red chili sauce sweetened with pineapple, cilantro, and a hint of cinnamon. It comes with hot wheat tortillas ($10) to assemble and enjoy.

The menu at Fonda Lola is very short. There’s only one dessert, the classic Mexican street donuts Churros - deep fried, covered with sugar and cinnamon and served with whipped cream and cajeta (goat milk dulce de leche like caramel - $5). The churros were oily, but if you’re looking for a decadent over-the-top dessert, this is it. For summer drinks and fun patio food it would be hard to beat Fonda Lola. Located at 942 Queen Street. W.  647-706-9105