Inspired by the cuisine of Michoacan, a state in Mexico, Jose Palomino and his wife, Lisa Lee, have set out to provide the community with home cooked, comfortable and inexpensive meals. Highlighting fresh, traditional Mexican dishes and making everything in house (including the queso fresco from Jose's own recipe), La Fonda Del Gusto's got the edge on Wicker Park’s finer Mexican dining.
Skim through the menu and you'll find traditional taco, tostada and torta staples (filled with the likes of chorizo, chicken, skirt steak and wild mushrooms for $2-$4.75), huaraches (corn mesa stuffed with beans, flattened in a press, grilled and topped with your choice of meat and red or green sauce with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and queso fresco) and main course dishes like tampiquena (grilled inner skirt steak topped with ancho chile butter and served with a roasted poblano cheese enchilada), pollo con chorizo Mexicano (grilled chicken breast topped with handmade chorizo sausage, roasted poblano pepper and Chihuahua cheese) and tequila-lime prawns. All main plates come with rice, beans and your choice of warm corn or flour tortillas. And not to forget, complimentary homemade chips and salsa greet each table.
The restaurant is BYOB (no corkage fee), but with a twist. You bring in your own liquor and they'll mix the drink. So far the menu highlights two non-alcoholic drinks, or "mocktails" – pina coladas for $3.99 and mojitos for $2.99. There's also agua de Jamaica (hibiscus flower water), horchata (rice milk) and fountain drinks.
La Fonda Del Gusto is contemporary, classy and modern while still maintaining a warm, unpretentious atmosphere. The dining area – broken into four rooms – is dimly lit with sconces and track lighting, painted in raspberry red, moss green and pale yellow tones. An open kitchen lets you get close to the action, and the separate rooms (tables for two in the front, booths in the middle and larger tables in the back) cater to intimate duos and larger parties alike. Weekend brunch was added in June.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Katie Piepel