New York has a new contender in stand-out Mexican food. Located in the southern reaches of Woodside near the Maspeth border, La Fondita (“little inn”) is a four-month-old restaurant with a range of Mexican dishes that are ubiquitous across New York like tacos, burritos, enchiladas — but delivers expertly on the ones I’ve tried.
The most exciting dish is off-menu, and only available to those who know to ask for it. The mole de Guerrero ($16.95) — named for the mountainous southwest state in Mexico where chef Adela Arias-Galvez was born — is brick red and grainy, dense and heavy, and utterly delectable without being over-the-top spicy. Derived from a recipe from Arias-Galvez’s grandmother, the mole is thick, and chicken or pork ribs may be dropped into it. On a recent Sunday afternoon, three friends and I went with the pig. While gnawing on the tender ribs is a great pleasure, even better is dipping the warm tortillas — made on the premises by hand — into the flavorful mole, or pouring it over the accompanying yellow rice.
Such a dish is a surprise, but Arias-Galvez prepares even the more common dishes on the menu with a degree of art that makes this rather obscurely located restaurant one of the best new restaurants serving Mexican food in the city.
Take the tacos placeros. These are often served nostalgically in southern Mexican restaurants; back home they represent a cheap and cherished shopper’s snack, usually containing rice within the tortilla and sometimes meatless. One popular version is made with a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, but often in renditions seen in New York, the pepper is so big and tough it overwhelms the taco. At La Fondita, the poblano is delicate and thin-skinned, allowing all the elements of the treat to shine.
Other tacos ($3 each) show similar thoughtfulness. The steak taco, in addition to being filled with tender strips of meat, also has a carefully pared julienne of prickly pear paddles, adding a lubrication reminiscent of okra. The menu offers other antojitos that include tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, flautas, sopes, quesadillas, huaraches, and chalupas, but this being the weekend, we went for a bowl of pozole.
Here, the hearty soup is made special by several factors. First off, it comes in a decorated ceramic pot as if you were in tu abuela’s kitchen, as your choice of chicken or pork bobs up in the middle of the pot coated with angry looking ground red chiles. Inside the broth lurked plenty of pozole — corn kernels that have been slaked with quicklime to give them a puffy appearance and creamy flavor. A side plate lets you customize the soup with raw onions, avocado, and lime juice. Toss and squeeze. The soup comes with a pair of refried bean tostadas, easily making a full meal for two, and a more festive and filling experience. The pozole is also available in a blander white version, with the same choice of chicken or pork.
There are entrée platters, too, which include rice, soupy pink beans, and tortillas along with mains that run to mole poblano with chicken, pork ribs in green salsa, cecina (dried beef jerky), steaks prepared several ways, and alambre, a mixed meat stir fry. The dining room is pink walled and welcoming, the ceiling swagged with glittery streamers, a Virgin of Guadeloupe in one corner, and, somewhat whimsically, statuettes of Old West cowboys.
Get to the restaurant by ambulating straight south from the 7 train’s 69th Street Station along 69th Street, a walk that should take about 15 minutes. 49-11 69th St., between 49th and 50th avenues, Woodside