Restaurant Review: Veracruz Fonda & Bar
Three massive portraits of Mexican actress and feminist activist María Félix overlook the dining room of Veracruz Fonda & Bar, a love letter to powerful women everywhere. The new brick-and-mortar from sisters Reyna and Maritza Vazquez, who brought us Veracruz All Natural (and their phenomenal migas tacos), is an homage to their mother's family restaurant in Veracruz, Mexico.
Appropriately, tacos pervade the menu, from iterations on breakfast standards, like the delicious poblanos migas, to the veg-friendly Furioso with sautéed cauliflower, carrot, corn, spinach, and avocado. The chile relleno taco folds all the best components of a dinner plate into a tortilla, and every bite is perfect. While the chicken Milanesa is a great idea and tastes good, the execution suffers in that the cutlet was unwieldy in taco form.
Among the starters, the shrimp ceviche is just as gorgeous as it is tasty and could easily be a meal on its own. Large fried corn tortillas beg to be piled high with tangy shrimp and avocado. Check out El Cuarteto dip sampler for the sikil pak, a revelatory pumpkin-seed salsa that complements the blazingly hot peanut macha.
Veracruz Fonda excels when it comes to small plates. Among the standouts are the panucho de cochinita, a corn tortilla filled with refried black beans and topped with cochinita pibil, avocado, and grilled habanero salsa. It's simple and simply delightful.
Another winner is the picada, a thick corn tortilla topped with thinly sliced steak or egg (or both!) and a signature salsa. My server suggested the mole; he knows what he's doing, because it's equal parts spicy and smoky, and the savory chocolate flavor perfectly complements the rest of the ingredients in the dish.
The most impressive dish on the lineup, though, is the mojarra frita, a deep-fried whole fish that is both visually stunning and delicious. Upgrade to red snapper; it's a worthwhile investment. The combination of crispy skin cooked in garlic sauce, flaky meat, and subtle spicing makes this a tremendous catch. Excavating the raw materials for several tacos from the fish takes some effort but is absolutely worth it.
There are only two desserts on the menu, and they're both recommendable. The tres leches cake especially shines. The seasonal mixed-berry fruit mixture wed with the icing created a complete package of texture and flavor that would be worth a visit all on its own.
The drinks menu is extensive, with an admirable coffee program in partnership with Desnudo Coffee, including the café lechero, a sort of Mexican latte. There are Veracruz's now-famous smoothies and aguas frescas, a robust cocktail menu, and a variety of local beers on tap, and an assortment of American and Mexican beers in bottles and cans.
Mueller is an embarrassment of riches for discerning diners these days; Veracruz Fonda & Bar has every chance to be a mainstay in the area for a long time to come. Don't call it girl power: Just call it damn good food.