ATXReview

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Fonda San Miguel review image
8.1

Fonda San Miguel

$$$$

2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

It’s easy to forget where you are when you first walk through the large, carved wooden doors at the entrance to Fonda San Miguel—an entryway that feels more like you’re walking into an epic scene from Pixar’s Coco than a Mexican restaurant just a stone’s throw away from a CVS in Allandale. An Austin institution that opened up a full year before the events of Dazed and Confused took place in 1976, it predates the original Whole Foods downtown. During an era where “Mexican food” and “Tex-Mex” were practically synonymous, Fonda San Miguel was an early introduction of “Interior Mexican food” in Austin. It’s not just one of the oldest restaurants in the city, it’s one of the cornerstones of Mexican fine dining in Austin.

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

If you can enter the large foyer with the tall, vaulted glass ceiling without a semi-audible “wow” that would make Owen Wilson proud, we can only imagine you grew up in a luxurious Mexican villa or are unable to process wonder. It’s one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Austin, complete with commissioned paintings by Oaxacan artists and a hand-carved bar. The dining room is broken into a few different sections—we like to grab one of the small tables along the outer corridors for a more intimate date, or one of the bigger tables in the casual and expansive dining room when we want to impress our parents visiting from out of town. Either way, you’ll have access to the full menu of dishes pulled mostly from Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Yucatan regional specialties. 

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

The food here takes a more casual approach to fine dining—don’t come here for tweezered greens or habanero foams—with an execution that ranges from pretty good to great. This is where we’ve had some of the best mole in Austin—sweet, bitter, and earthy—over a bed of warm, cheesy enchiladas. Get an order of cochinita pibil, and unpack the tightly-wrapped banana leaf to reveal a bed of tender pork that smells almost as good as it tastes. And the carne asada takes the rare form of a splayed-out beef tenderloin that’s rich, savory, and among the most tender you’ve ever had. But some things, like the queso fundido, can be fairly bland and lackluster.

Dishes here feel like they’ve been worked on for decades, and many of them probably have. It’s not a place that feels like it’s trying to innovate with new dishes every week. It’s a place that feels like it decided to innovate once, 50 years ago, and just kept running with it. And that’s OK, because sometimes we don’t want a weekly changing seasonal menu. Sometimes we just want to come back to revisit some old favorites in a beautiful dining room. Fortunately for us, Fonda San Miguel isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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Food Rundown

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Silver Coin Margarita

There are a lot of margaritas on the menu, and you should definitely try them all (maybe over a few visits). You’ll want to start with the Silver Coin. It’s their signature watermelon margarita, and it’s just as refreshing as it sounds, while still managing to pack a little punch.

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Ancho Relleno San Miguel

While you can certainly order the more classic chile relleno—with a battered and fried poblano pepper—the ancho relleno San Miguel is our favorite version here. It starts with an ancho chile and skips the batter, resulting in a more earthy, roasted flavor. It’s stuffed with a mix of chicken, olives, and capers, then topped with a light cilantro cream sauce. There are a lot of contrasting flavors, but none of them are overpowering.

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Carne Asada

At Fonda San Miguel, they swap out the more common skirt or chuck steak for tenderloin in their carne asada. It’s cut into a long, thin sheet, then hits the grill until it’s perfectly cooked on the inside, with a lightly-charred surface. And it’s tender in only the ways that tenderloin knows how to be.

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Cochinita Pibil

The cochinita pibil comes wrapped in a banana leaf that releases some serious aromas as you unwrap it. Inside is a pile of soft, tender pork that you can scoop out onto some warm, thin tortillas. It’s one of their signature items for a reason—it’s rich, savory, and one of our favorite versions in town.

Fonda San Miguel review image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tres Leches

As much as we like all the savory dishes, the tres leches might be our favorite thing here. It’s not overly sweet, like we feel is far too often the case, and it’s topped with some fresh fruit and a bright mango sorbet that balances out the creamy cake.

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