Your Introduction to the Mexico City Fonda
Going Beyond Street Food: Comida Corrida_
For no good reason, the Mexico City fonda remains a controversial subject. Simple lunch counters offering daily lunches, they’re where most regular working folks eat. They also serve some of the freshest and best prepared food in the city.
But how do we get you into one? The right one? And, at last, eating really well?
The fonda is the obvious choice to graduate to once you’ve had your fill of tacos, lighter fare, and street fare. In fact, the fonda is often much closer to offering what international visitors expect from Mexican food. For next to no money, many of them offer food as fresh as anything else in the entire city.
Many of the best fondas are within the city’s public markets. This page is intended to help you to eat lunch at more of them.
Mexico City residents, even those most addicted to the city’s street food, will eat that at night. Lunch times are spent at a decent fonda, eating foods that are fresh, healthy, and well balanced.
Background & Controversy
Among the reasons it’s a tough subject to broach:
- Some Mexico City diners are actually protective of their favorite places to eat;
- Others are vaguely ashamed that they don’t regularly eat somewhere fancier;
- Because they’re not anywhere formally defined, people lack certainty, and so the fondas become even more informal;
- And people frankly love to argue the details: which is better, which is disqualified, and which was the best fonda ever.
The fact is, even the word “fonda” belies a terrific degree of uncertainty. The Spanish Royal Academy online dictionary declares it:
- A public establishment, of a lower category than a hotel, or of an older type, where lodging and meals are served;
- The quarters service, dining room, and kitchen on a merchant ship;
- And (in Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic) as a booth or canteen where food and drinks are dispatched.
Mexico City residents enjoy arguing the reasons for any of why this should be. They will also argue at length about which is a fonda, which is not, and what other categories of eatery exist.
To make all of this simpler though, in Mexico City, the fonda is a lunch counter.
It will also be called comida corrida, or loncheria, and a number of other lesser-used names.
The Mexico City Fonda & Comida Corrida
Visitors to Mexico City soon realize that, on most days of the week, lunch is far and away the most important meal of the day. This too helps to explain why – in restaurants and cafes oriented towards dinner – the fonda occupies such an odd place.
Most restaurants offer lunch. Fondas will offer ONLY lunch.
Comida Corrida is the essential fare at any fonda. To put it simply, it’s a fixed-price lunch menu.
Importantly, some busier fondas will default international visitors to la Carta, the a-la carte menu. This is because they assume international, or just non-regular, customers don’t want the prix-fixe.
This page is intended to get you onto the Comida Corrida menu. Don’t be bedazzled just because there are photos on the regular menu.
What is Comida Corrida?
This one is even funnier. Comida Corrida might be translated as “food on the run.” In fact, it is more often stated this way than as the menú del día. The point is, for travelers, comida corrida is a simple, good way to get a balanced meal once you’ve realized you’re going to need one.
Most comida corrida menus will offer you options like:
- A fruit-water or horchata to drink;
- A choice between one or two soups or a crema, cream based soup;
- A choice between rice, spaghetti, or a house salad or similar uncooked vegetables.
- A choice of guisados (main dishes), as follows:
- better fondas will have two or three daily specials – and this can be among the best food being served in the city that day;
- a list, often rather long, of other lunches served every day, and;
- your choice of the main dish determines the price of the entire meal. (Fonda prices may start at mx$50 and extend up to mx$150. Restaurants serving comida corrida may exceed mx$200 for a similar meal.)
- Some fondas will offer a postre, dessert, of flavored gelatin, arroz con leche, or a similar sweet.
Choosing Your Fonda / Comida Corrida
These are a few basic tips, although obviously service and details can vary widely.
- Look for a handwritten sign, as shown at the top of the page.
- Even better look inside the public market.
- Look for a bit more detail, including a full menú del día printed on a photocopied sheet. Better fondas print a new one every day.
- But be careful not to confuse menú del día / comida corrida with la carta (i.e.; the menu, in English). Better lunches are served to regular customers eating from the comida corrida menu every day.
- Better fondas will have invested in at least some china plates, soup bowls, table ware.
- Better fondas will also have a full kitchen, refrigerators, and dish-washing areas. If you can see them, so much the better.
- Like always, better fondas will also be crowded.