Fonda Mexicana

Proud owner Roberto

What a joy to happen upon a good, “safe”, traditional Oaxacan restaurant with a reasonable fixed price luncheon menu (comida corrida) in the Benito Juarez market district (aka 20th of November) a couple of blocks southwest of the Zócalo. Owners Roberto and Clara Loranca seem to always be on hand to ensure their patrons receive fast, hearty, tasty offerings, from the a la carte menu or the diverse daily full meal specials.

After wandering the aisles of the market looking for gifts, crafts, foods or simply chácharas under the awnings outside the main building, it can’t get any better than to find a pleasant respite right under your nose.

The ambience is classic Oaxacan: the walls in deep pink and mauve with yellow and blue accents are adorned with vintage photos, pottery pieces and textile; glass topped pine tables and comfortable chairs are set off with bright green tablecloths; and the music is traditional taped Mexican, when a trio or lone troubadour is not passing by. There’s always an unusually adequate compliment of smartly uniformed staff to greet and ensure that you have a tall cool glass of the water of the day virtually upon being seated…a prerequisite after negotiating the market or crowded streets.

The menu is diverse both in terms of breakfasts which range from 15 to 30 pesos, and comidas from 18 to 45 pesos. The comida corrida is 40 pesos and offers a wide variety of choices. While la carta is easily readable and well organized into, for example, delicious meal-sized Salsas (egg, cheese, chorizo or chicharón), Carnes, and Traditional and Mexican Plates, we invariably opt for the daily specials. For this visit the comida corrida consisted of, in addition to bottomless water of the day, dessert and tortillas, your choice of soup, then flavored rice or green bean salad, followed by one of four entrées…an aromatic roast chicken breast plate with refried beans and fresh salad, a beef and bacon dish similarly garnished, pork spine in amarillo sauce or mole negro (naturally with chicken).

We tend to gravitate to comidas built around one of the 7 moles, and did so for this visit. You can’t go wrong. But first, the soups were pasta with vegetables, and cream of broccoli with croutons, each of which were flavored in a subtle and mild fashion, deliberate so as to not overshadow the main courses, enabling the meal to build up to a tangy and piquant crescendo. The saffron rice contained the prerequisite peas and carrots and the cooked green beans included onion and tomato, topped with crumbled cheese.

Each of the moles finish the palate with a little bite, but not so much as to mask or overtake the classically distinct Oaxacan flavors. The chicken mole was extremely flavorful in terms of easily being able to discern the chocolate and chili components. While the sauce was rich, at the same time it seemed light, reminiscent of all the times I’d lamented if only I could have the taste and tang without the oil and fat. My yearning was not in vain this day. Similarly the pork spine in amarillo had a nice kick to it, this time from ancho and guajillo chilies, also prepared with the bare minimum of artery clogger. The meat easily fell off the bone as it should, and the sauce, containing green beans and chayote, garnished with onion, had that tell-tale avocado leaf flavor. Roberto and Clara are proud of their moles, so much so that if you manage to finish your main course including sauce, all you have to do is ask and management will be proud to oblige by bringing you some extra sauce, with tortillas to help you along. The chilled gelatin dessert proved to be a perfect finish to a memorable meal. And so whenever we have guests to the city, hidden-away Fonda Mexicana is always on our list for a spur-of-the-moment impressionable Oaxacan treat.

– Lunch and breakfast offered
– Fixed meal offered
– Beer and mezcal
–Average price full meal incl. beverage 40 – 60.
– Traditional Oaxacan
– One word: moles

Roberto and Clara Loranca López
Fonda Mexicana
20 de Noviembre Num. 408
Tel. 51-43121

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Alvin & Arlene Starkman’s Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( ) combines the comfort and service of quality downtown Oaxaca hotels, with the quaintness of country inn lodging. Oaxaca accommodations with a personal touch. Ask about Alvin’s Oaxaca tours, fully personalized. Casa Machaya is a founding member of the Oaxaca Bed and Breakfast Association.