It’s not every day that a new restaurant opens in Coronado. When we heard that a new Mexican restaurant was popping up in the old Gustatory space on the 100 block of Orange, we had to check it out!
The name: Fonda Don Diego. The spin: A menu brimming with south-of-the-border delights, featuring savory dishes created by Chef Alejandro Martinez from Chez Loma. The drink selection: Tasty, inventive craft cocktails, and solid beer and wine selections. The space: vibrant and warm, Tijuana street art-style, walls adorned with colorful murals. The prices: super reasonable.
Hmm…sounds enticing, doesn’t it? But would Fonda Don Diego really deliver? Or would it go the way of tenant ghosts Gustatory and Sapori? There was only one way to find out.
My first visit was last week. I came in around noon on a Friday, and the restaurant was already buzzing with chatty, happy locals, eager to talk about their meals. I was excited to see a few people that I knew.
“The chilaquiles are to die for!” said a friend, dining outside.
“I love the cochinita taco,” said someone else, eating indoors with her family.
“I ordered the egg dish with plantains…delicious!”
“The tacos are good…not revolutionary, but good…Yeah, I like them.”
Wow! A lot of warm feedback on the menu, I thought. I can’t wait to order!
But first, I had to check out the space.
The décor of Fonda Don Diego is warm, vibrant, and thoughtful with an urban, contemporary edge. Parts of the restaurant reminded me of Rosarito or Puerto Nuevo…inviting and cozy.
Fantastic, colorful murals adorn the walls. Turns out they are from award-winning Tijuana Street artist Alonso Delgadillo, who goes by the name El Norteno, or “Norte” for short. (He is even cool enough to have been a featured artist at Kaaboo 2017.)
You can’t miss the murals, and you shouldn’t. Here’s what El Norteno has to say about his art:
“Border life is a daily emotional stimulus that drives me to tell stories…Tijuana is aggressive and hospital at the same time; I like being in a city that forces me to reinvent myself again and again.”
I like it.
Okay, okay, enough with the art, and on to the most pressing issue of the hour…cocktails!
Fonda Don Diego advertises $5 mimosas, $5 draft beer and an impressive espresso bar. Don’t be swayed. The cocktail menu is where it’s at! If your server doesn’t offer a cocktail menu (which they didn’t both times we came in) be sure to ask for one.
Resident bartender/mixologist Ramon conjured up the cocktail selection and it is creative and impressive! On my first visit, I ordered the Kombucha Royale, touting “vibrant kombucha, sparkling wine and black walnut bitters.” Kombucha and wine? Yes, please! The kombucha would surely cancel out the negative health effects of the wine!
It’s as tasty as it looks. Refreshing, zingy, and delicious. (A waitress told me that Ramon got really good at making kombucha when he “went away” for a while.) The best part? It’s a reasonable $6.50.
When I brought my husband in a few days later, we couldn’t resist sampling a few more of the cocktail selections. (Only to be fair, and to give readers a good idea of the offerings. Not because we love to drink cocktails.)
For me, Ramon recommended the Guanavana Queen, which has soursop puree, fresh lime juice, Korean vodka, and agave syrup. It came with a sweet and spicy rimmed glass.
What is soursop, you say? So glad you asked. According to Ramon, soursop is a prickly alligator-like fruit that comes from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. It’s supposed to be super healthy, and according to the Internet, it can even fight cancer! (Once again, the benefits of the soursop trump the negative effects of the Korean vodka.)
This drink was the bomb, and it rivaled even the Kombucha Royale. (Between the Kombucha and soursop, this place could save my life!)
I also sampled the 3 layer Sangria which was a delicious with a hint of cinnamon. A perfect fall drink! I could see myself lounging in a flannel shirt and jeans, lazily sipping on my 3 layer Sangria, giggling at a funny comment a friend has made. (Because my friends are smart and witty.) It would be J. Crew kind-of-moment.
My husband ordered a mule, which was light and refreshing, and a Jalepano Margarita which was tasty and not too spicy, but I liked my drinks better. What can I say? I make great choices.
When it comes to the menu, the selections seemed vast! I was there for breakfast/lunch both times (they weren’t open yet for dinner), so I guess it was sort of a brunch menu. Omelets and tacos and enchiladas oh my!
For the fit and fabulous crowd, they also offer “Jars” of parfait-like combos, including Acai with berries, granola and almond milk and chia with dates and maple syrup.
I wasn’t feeling fit or fabulous. I was feeling downright hangry, so I asked for something filling and spicy.
The waitress recommended the Divorciados which I’ve heard is a popular dish in Mexico. It is a tortilla with refried beans, 3 fried eggs, ranchero sauce, and tomatillo sauce. (That’s red AND green sauce, bam!) I asked for a side of extra salsa because I am used to my food not being spicy enough for me.
It was awesome. Just spicy enough, tasty, and perfect. I ate it all and would definitely order it again. I’m actually craving it right now. I didn’t even need my extra side of salsa!
When I came with my husband, he ordered the enchiladas with chicken with swiss cheese. So good! It came with creamy tomatillo sauce, cheese and corn. My husband was really nice and let me eat a lot of this.
On this visit I ordered a quesadilla which sounds boring but was actually totally different because it comes out fried–hot-pocket style. (This is a good thing.) I got the chorizo with potato. It was crispy and yummy…the meat was perfectly spiced. I ordered an extra side of salsa which I did use this time, otherwise it may have been too dry for me. It was really good, but I found myself wishing it was bursting with more cheese.
Oh yeah…did I mention my quesadilla (which was enough for a meal for me) was like, $4?
Which brings me to an important point…the prices are very reasonable here! My husband and I ordered two dishes and four cocktails, and the bill was $47. Don’t believe me? Here’s the bill.
Ramon told me that they were opening for dinner (and happy hour) as of this week, with a completely different menu featuring ribs, carnitas, ceviche and seafood. You can bet we will be back. Stay tuned for the happy hour review! In the meantime, Beinvenido, Fonda Don Diego!
See below for pics of the brunch/lunch menu and cocktail menu. And for more details and descriptions of food offerings at Fonda Don Diego, please see the review from the lovely Coree Cornelius at eCoronado.com.