Colonia del Valle locals flock to La Margara for soulful Mexican breakfasts.
When we first walked up to Fonda Margarita and saw the line stretched down the block, it made me wonder whether the restaurant succumbed to the Bourdain effect since appearing on “No Reservations.” However, as Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA) and I drew closer, it became clear that this was no tourist destination. It was locals that filled the line in Colonia del Valle, a residential neighborhood on Mexico City’s south side. Many of people we spoke with come to the restaurant on a weekly basis, at least, and have been for the 46 years that Familia Margarita has operated the soulful restaurant, locals call La Margara.
La Familia Margarita serves 4-6 specials per day, almost all dispensed from from massive cazuelas (clay pots).
Once guisados (stews) run out, they’re gone, so arrive early and either cross your fingers or pray to the Virgin Mary, who graces the wall.
The wall mounted menu features options like bistec en pasilla, manitas al cerdo, pata de res en verde and espinazo de cerdo en guajillo.
Fonda Margarita offers media (half) and full orders of most dishes, and nothing costs more than a few bucks. The flavor to cost ratio is sky high.
While some guisados sounded most tempting, they already sold out of options like chicharrones en salsa verde. No big deal, we just moved down the board.
Milanesa (46 pesos ~ $3.75) involved thin-pounded steak they lightly breaded and flash fried in manteca (pig lard).
The crispy, but still pliable steak was outstanding, no doubt benefiting from the hog fat. This was expert frying, so there was no pool of grease. The steak appeared with a mound of guacamole, fresh-shucked avocado folded with chunky pico de gallo.
Fonda Margarita employs al carbon, cooking certain dishes over red-hot mesquite coals, including our state-of-the-art Milanesa.
Considering our steak cooked in hog fat, it had flavor to spare, but the dish still benefited from spicy house salsa made with roasted serrano chilies, tomatoes and onions.
We cut off swaths of steak, tucked them into steaming corn tortillas and slathered on guac and salsa. Bites don’t get much better.
Our communal tablemates – three local women – shared several restaurant recommendations (which we followed) along with tastes of their Torta de Carne (41 pesos). The bowl featured savory pork chunks stewed in a tomato and Cuaresmo chile broth with onions.
Free form Huevos in pasilla chile sauce (26 pesos for media) featuring eggs bathed in chile sauce were spicy and smoky and ideal when loaded into Fonda Margarita’s corn tortillas.
Our only side consisted of Refritos con juevo (36 for chico), a dense tube of smashed black beans and egg that were fried until crisp and smoky. A few spoonfuls of salsa really made the side sing.
To form tacos, we received a basket of good corn tortillas, served thin and hot.
As good as the meal was, my favorite moment may have been afterwards, when we walked across the street to the plaza and discovered an empty bucket of lard that promised paraiso (paradise). Pig fat indeed points toward paradise, and no doubt accelerates its arrival.