Fonda San Miguel

On behalf of my Junky brethren I want to say thank you to the two lovely ladies at Crave Communications, Paula and Cat, not only for the wonderful dinner but for their company as well. When one steps through the hand carved wooden doors that serve as the entrance to Fonda San Miguel you almost feel as if you have been transported to a beautiful Mexican court yard. Opened in 1975 it was one of the first restaurants to serve exclusively Mexican food drawing from all of the countries regions not just focusing on one area. Owner Tom Gilliland and Executive Chef Miguel Ravago, have worked to hone the food and décor of Fonda so as to create the illusion of being transported to another place and time. With all this in mind we sat down at a beautiful copper adorned table top and began our tour of Mexico.

After sitting down at the table we were informed that the ladies from Crave had told our waiter to bring an assortment of food at a decent pace and that we would be satisfied before we left. So that left us with the first question of the night, "what would we like to drink?" This would typically be an easy question for me to answer, sapphire and tonic with a twist. But feeling that I was at someplace special, someplace that offers something far different than most restaurants, I thought I would ask what the house special was. The answer was the "Silver Coin". This margarita made with watermelon infused tequila (yeah I know right!), cointreau, and fresh lime juice is awesome, it’s refreshing and light yet which hides the fact that most of the drink is strait tequila. Matt ordered a Manhattan which was also tasty and served in a cool metal martini glass. David had ordered a Pisco sour, which is a wonderfully tart lemon drink from South America that’s made with Peruvian Pisco.

I hadn’t even noticed that the waiter had walked back up when I started hearing wonderful words like wild Canadian lobster and blue corn quesadillas. Before I could even get the camera ready people started to dive into the food. But luckily I think I got some shots before it was all gone. The Wild Canadian lobster was served ceviche style which kept the lobster wonderfully tender and sweet with just a hint of citrus. And the blue corn tortillas were stuffed with Muenster cheese.

Next was the Plato de Miguel which is made up of lamb lollipops, adobo crusted shrimp, blue corn quesadillas, and tacos al pastor. Every bite of everything was amazing. What really stood out to me was that the flavors of everything were simple yet flavorful and rich. The lamb for example was very simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and pasilla chili. The main focus was the lamb, but the flavor was raised and enriched by the seasonings that were used. This is so different from the "Tex-Mex" food that I was raised around where the food is flavorful but you can’t really pick out any individual flavors it just turns into a spicy tomatoey meaty mouthful. Chef Ravago crafted the flavor of each dish so that each flavor profile is unique yet they work harmoniously together. Likewise the shrimp was sweet yet worked wonderfully with the spice flavor from the adobo seasoning.

My favorite though is the Al Pastor. This has always been my favorite dish and no matter if it’s on the Cuba Sandwich at La Tapatilla, in tacos at Rositas, or in my plato combanacion with my lengua, I love al pastor and this is the best. The pork is cut into small pieces and is then slow cooked with a mixture of spices and pineapple. The way that the flavors come together to truly create a dish that is more than the sum of its parts and is why I had to make this my favorite dish of the night. The sweet tanginess of the pineapple comes through ever so delicately so that it doesn’t taste fruity yet you know that its there. The pork while being tender isn’t greasy, and the smoky flavors from the chilies all came through with each wonderful bite. The blue corn quesadillas were stuffed with Muenster cheese and either rajas (a sauté of chilies and onions), shredded chicken, or mushroom.

Around this time I ordered my second drink of the night the Plantation. This refreshing cocktail is made with Plymouth gin, basil, cointreau, agave, and grapefruit. The night was going wonderfully, the boys and I were trying to convince Paula to make her homemade corn tortillas on film for our Youtube feed while they were making fun of me for not being able to talk and repeatedly saying Italia in very incorrect places. Around this time I was saved by a tower of food, literally. The Torre de Botanas arrived bringing with it three levels of Tostadas Compuestas and Sopecitos. The tostadas where served three ways, one with the same shredded chicken that was used in the quesadillas, one with house smashed guacamole, and one with their cochinita pibil.

The cochinita pibil was the standout of the three. This traditional pork dish from the YucatanPeninsula is slow cooked with achiote, garlic, onion, and cumin, and is then served with pickled onion. Being the first time that I have tried this, I was excited. My first bite was made with slight trepidation not knowing exactly what I was about to taste. But the pork did not disappoint, it was tender and flavorful with the citrusy marinade coming through and the pickled onions popping off like little flavor crystals exploding in my mouth. The Sopecitos were also served three ways; one with the house made guacamole, one with a wonderful topping of black drum, and another with the adobo crusted shrimp. All three flavors were served on top of wonderfully tender pillows made from fried masa

It was sad to say, but our dinner at this point was winding down now, but we still had two dishes left, the tres leches and the crepas de cajeta. The tres leches was the best that I have had, I’m typically not a big fan of tres leches but this was excellent the cake was firm and had a good texture and was served with a nice fruit topping on it. But the real star was the crepas de cajeta. If you have never had cajeta this is a wonderful way to do it. Cajeta is a rich and luxuriant caramel sauce made from goat’s milk The crepes were a bit thicker than I was used to but they served perfectly to sop up the amazing caramel sauce, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better its served with a scoop of cajeta ice cream.

The meal was now finished. The last bite of dessert fought over, the last sip of wonderful coffee drank (you get your own French press), and the conversation dying down into a quiet satiated moment of reflection on the wonderful meal consumed. Fonda San Miguel is a special place, a place where you go for more than just a meal, a place where you can take a tour of Mexico one amazingly delicious bite at a time. Hasta luego mis amigos.

Fonda San Miguel
2300 West North Loop
Austin, TX


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