I bike past Fonda Lola, a quaint and cozy Mexican restaurant, nearly every day on my way to work. In fact, it is ideally situated in the Queen West neighbourhood of Toronto.

At its fair price points and generous portion sizes, it’s a wonder I didn’t drop by sooner for a bite. The Mexican menu makes a valiant attempt at honouring recipes from the motherland– courtesy of Chef Ernesto, the owner, who is inspired by his grandmother’s comfort dishes.

The food here carries a welcoming neighbourhood sentiment. It’s a place you’ll want to go to before a late night show on the Ossington strip or to have drinks at after work. Or if you’re recovering from a late-night siesta from the evening before– rejoice (!) they have brunch on the weekend to cure what ails you.

With tall glasses of the intoxicating variety (i.e. the Rose Kombucha Margarita that beams with grapefruit juices, smoked horchata and tequila), it will definitely be a place where one can be tipsy with delight.

Here are some favourites we feasted on:

Guacamole:

Guacamole with house-made tortilla chips

A creamy, dreamy mountain of fresh avocados, spices, chopped onions and tomatoes. Perfect for eating with crunch-tastic corn tortilla chips.

Papas Al Chiptole:
Tender golden baby potatoes soak up a bath of chipotle confit made of garlic, olive and avocado oil. The earthy liquid is a fiery delight and demands that you have crusty bread on hand to mop up all the addictive excess.

Sopa de Tortilla:
Poured table-side, it’s a play-with-your food kind of soup. Roasted vegetables – red and yellow peppers, celery tomatoes, &garlic get blended up into a rich, thick broth. Then add your toppings: crunchy tortilla strips, fresh avocado slices, salty cotja cheese and jalalpeno for a kick. I’m not a soup fan but this was definitely an umami-ville pleasure.

Camarones al Ajillo:

Camarones al Ajillo

Plump tiger prawns get sautéed in garlic and guajillo. The morsels are salty and heady with spices.

Cochinita Pibil:
Pork Shoulder (picnic cut) get a marinate in sour/ tangy pibil along with cumin cloves, allspice for 24 hours, then a slow 5 hour braise until fork tender. The piggy hunks are nestled in freshly made soft-corn tortillas.

Taco de Tofu Sofrito

Taco de Tofu Sofrito

A surprise crowd favourite of the evening. The firm tofu is sliced into thick, steak sized pieces, given a crunchy cornmeal dredge and deep fried. Then ladled over, a smoky tomato and bell pepper confit topped with crispy kale shards. It’s creamy and smoky, but most of all, many of us are astounded that we aren’t yearning for meat. Vegetarian friends, this one’s a winner.

Tacos de Pulpo:

Tacos de Pulpo

Octopus is braised till tender then sliced up thinly and given a lively sauté before landing on a soft taco with avocado and salsa.

Chef de Cuisine, Rick Belanger, isn’t done with us yet. Dessert is paraded out– including signature chubby Churros with whipped cajeta foam and tangy Tequila Lime Cheesecake. It’s served alongside a spirited, warm Boozy Hot Apple Cider. It is sweet, aromatic, riddled with spices and reminds me of the happy holidays.

Tequila Lime Cheesecake

Fonda Lola Mexican Bistro offers fresh, vibrant cuisine with crowd pleasing plates alongside some innovative ones that are sure to make your taste buds return for more.

Photos by Tiffany Leigh

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Tiffany Leigh