Saturday, December 16, 2006

Seafood Stop serves up Vegan Food after our Happy Hour

Fonda del Mar: (Logan Square) Chicago
3749 W. Fullerton Ave.
(773) 489-3748

dinner at Fonda del Mar.jpg

My roommate Liz and I had just wrapped up a three-hour happy hour at our place Friday, and we were off to a friend's birthday dinner at Fonda del Mar, a clean BYOB stop on the west side of Logan Square. To our party, I had caught a ride from the Loop with my pal Rose. Driving was an exception -we both take transport- that cost us 45 minutes instead of 30. And we went straight west from the Loop and then up Western to North to avoid traffic. Rose and I laughed listening to Beautiful South's "36D" and got excited about mini-chocolate cupcakes Rose made especially for tonight. Rose had pastry bags of "butter" cream frosting to top them on location: peppermint, organic lemon zest lemon (and coconut to top), and eggnog (made with Silk nog along with cinnamon and fresh nutmeg to grate on top). "Sorry I narrowed it down to only three flavors of frosting," Rose said as she told me she had throught about peanut butter and Mexican chocolate flavors, too. She was thinking about lavendar truffles, too, but then told me, "I have so many things I want to do." Asking if I could quote her, she told me, "I'll take any publicity I can get." For the record, I'm a big fan of her peppermint frosting; it brought refreshment to all of my mouth.

Liz's idea for the happy hour was brilliant. She used her super powers to bring together incedible food. We only got to giving away one of the gifts we set aside, but Liz seemed to have had a smashing time of wrapping them as she had told me earlier, "I just want to wrap things". The place was jammed with really good, fun and virbant people.

Fonda del Mar was simple: walls unadorned expect for framed photos, a brightly colored painting of a stylized pig, another of a fish, and some exposed brick. Food came from behind a red small-tiled wall topped with a black small-tiled counter mostly hiding the line cooks but showing off the stainless steel walls above them. Wood tables with cloth napkins, bottles of hot sauce and bowls of a spicy snack mix of coated peas, peanuts and other fried tasties on the table hinted a casual atmosphere. Across the many BYOB bottles on our long table of twelve, a kid leaned over his table to meet his dad in the middle with a warm kiss that could make some melt. It felt warm and loving, a starck contrast from the dark Fullerton Avenue outside, like the closed for the night "Tienda" seen through the window.

Guacamole came, and as the chef in our group pointed out, it lacked adequate salt. The guac was flatter than the richness that could have been. Had I smashed up the chips with it, it would have been brilliant.

I asked, "I know the menu says no substitutions, but would you mind making something up vegan for me?" They were lovely about it and modified one of their usuals: tortillas stacked and filled with potatoes and carrots in a tomato chipotle sauce, topped with avocado instead of filled with cheese. The flavors were smooth and the tortillas soft, but could have used more salt inside.

photo: Chris B.


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