What’s on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new Mexican restaurant seated from the team behind summer’s hottest taco pop-up

What’s on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new Mexican restaurant seated from the team behind summer’s hottest taco pop-up

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Name: Fonda Balam
Contact: 802 Dundas Street West, @fondabalam, fondabalam.com
District: Trinity Bellwoods
The owners: Kate Chomyshyn, Julio Guajardo, Matty Matheson, Gary Quinto and Dave Thorek
Cooks: Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo
Seats: 32 indoors, 24 on the terrace
Covid-19 security measures: Frequent disinfection, mask policy, vaccination control
Accessibility: Not fully accessible

The food

The must-have of summer craze for Birria gave us Birria balam, a pop-up taco shop co-signed by Matty Matheson. Fonda Balam, in its final form, retains the excellent birria amid an expanded menu inspired by small Mexican restaurants, also known as fondas. Dishes take inspiration from street food and home cooking from Guajardo’s hometown, León (and elsewhere in Mexico), and include aguachile (ceviche), killer guacamole, and vuelve a la vida, a spicy seafood cocktail believed to cure hangovers. Think big flavors, deep spices, and tangy accents across the board. Naturally, the tacos and quesadillas are a highlight, like the homemade carnitas and pickles, made with jalapeños grown at Matheson. Blue Goose Farm.

One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is aguachile de camarón, or Mexican shrimp ceviche. Butterfly prawns are coated in lime juice infused with chilli and garlic and served with cucumber pieces, red onion shreds and a green serrano cilantro oil. It is served with Saltines, totopos (fried tortilla chips) and hot sauce. $ 17.

Vuelve a la Vida literally translates to ‘coming back to life’, exactly what we need in a seafood cocktail that doubles as a (alleged) hangover cure. A mix of shrimp, octopus, crab, cucumber, jalapeño and avocado rests on a base of spicy tomatoes. As with the ceviche, it is served with Saltines, totopos and hot sauce. $ 19.

Here’s a closer look.

Molding of a corn tortilla for quesadillas.

Here we have a range of tacos. From bottom to top: simmered pork carnitas, escabeche and guacamole; of lengua with tongue and salsa verde crudo made from tomatillos; and pescado estilo ensenada, beer-battered fish with grated cabbage, cream and pico de gallo. $ 8 each.

The taco de carnitas gets a big serving of pork slowly cooked in cola and orange juice. It’s served on a dollop of guacamole and (not pictured here) homemade escabeche, a mix of pickled jalapeños, carrots and onions. $ 8.

The star of the lively summer pop-up, the quesabirria is filled with a chili-infused braised beef stew, topped with mozzarella, grilled a la plancha and served with its own braising liquid, or eaten, dip and sip. $ 19 for two.

Traditionally served in the morning, menudo is a hearty soup of tripe, pork belly and hominy in a red pepper broth. It is served with accessories for all your customization needs: salsa roja, cilantro and onion, lime wedges and hot corn tortillas. $ 18.

Coco-Choco Flan Impossible (fun to eat and say) is a chocolate cake base topped with flan and toasted coconut shavings. It’s served with a creamy dollop of coconut caramel ($ 8). On the right is the helado del dia, which that day was a vegan avocado and passion fruit sorbet. Refreshing, lemony, and just creamy enough for a sherbet, it’s the perfect spicy post-meal pick-me-up ($ 8).

A colorful and delicious spread

Chiefs Chomyshyn and Guajardo: Partners in Business and in Life.
The drinks

Among the fun and easy-to-drink cocktails you’ll find classics like margarita and cuba libre, as well as a tequila-infused version on the jungle bird and a creamy horchata colada. Also: three kinds of micheladas, two canned homemade cocktails, a menu of mostly local beer, and of course, Jarritos and Mexican Coke.

The spicy Ciele Rojo is essentially a beer-based Caesar. A blend of Modelo Especial, Clamato, lime, and a hint of guajillo chili salt makes this a tangy drink. $ 12.

And there he is again, with some of his drunk friends.

The entire room, designed by Emil Teleki of IV design, is centered around counter seating for relaxed dining ambiences. It is basically a large rectangle around a bar, with convenient passages for the waiters. Thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, it’s just as good for an evening as it is for a quick lunch. Cacti and colorful folk masks made by indigenous Mexican artists line the walls. What about glass block windows? Guajardo says they are taking him straight back to his grandmother.

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