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

By Liza Agrba| Photography by Daniel Neuhaus
What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up

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Name: Fonda Balam Contact: 802 Dundas St. W., @fondabalam, fondabalam.com
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods Owners: Kate Chomyshyn, Julio Guajardo, Matty Matheson, Gary Quinto and Dave Thorek Chefs: Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo Seating: 32 indoors, 24 on the patio Covid-19 safety measures: Frequent sanitization, mask policy, vaccination check Accessibility: Not fully accessible

The food

The summer’s unmissable birria craze gave us Birria Balam, a pop-up taco shop co-signed by Matty Matheson. Fonda Balam, its final form, holds onto the excellent birria amid an expanded menu inspired by small Mexican eateries, also known as fondas. Dishes draw on street food and home cooking from Guajardo’s native city of León (and elsewhere in Mexico), and include aguachile (ceviche), killer guacamole and vuelve a la vida—a spicy seafood cocktail rumoured to cure hangovers. Think big flavours, deep spices and zingy accents across the board. Naturally, tacos and quesadillas are a highlight—like the carnitas and house escabeche pickles, made with jalapeños grown at Matheson’s very own Blue Goose Farm.

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the aguachile de camarón, or Mexican shrimp ceviche. Butterflied shrimp is coated in lime juice infused with chile and garlic and served with coins of cucumber, shreds of red onion and a verdant serrano cilantro oil. It’s served with Saltines, totopos (fried tortilla chips) and hot sauce. $17.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
Vuelve a la Vida literally translates to “come back to life”—just what we need in a seafood cocktail that doubles as a (purported) hangover cure. A medley of shrimp, octopus, crab, cucumber, jalapeño and avocado sit in a spicy tomato base. As with the ceviche, it’s served with Saltines, totopos and hot sauce. $19.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
Here’s a closer look.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
Molding a corn tortilla for quesadillas.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
Here we have a lineup of tacos. Bottom up: de carnitas with slow-cooked pork, escabeche, and guacamole; de lengua with tongue and tomatillo-based salsa verde crudo; and de pescado estilo ensenada, beer-battered fish with shredded cabbage, crema and pico de gallo. $8 each.

 

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What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
The taco de carnitas gets a hefty portion of pork slow-cooked in Coke and OJ. It’s served on a dollop of guacamole and (not pictured here) house-made escabeche, a blend of pickled jalapeños, carrots,and onions. $8.
What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
The star of the buzzy summer pop-up, the quesabirria is filled with a heady, chile-infused braised beef stew, topped with mozzarella, grilled a la plancha, and served with its own braising liquid, or consomé, for dipping and sipping. $19 for two.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
Traditionally served in the morning, menudo is a hearty soup of tripe, pork belly and hominy in a red chile broth. It’s served with accoutrements for all your customization needs: salsa roja, cilantro and onion, lime wedges and warm corn tortillas. $18.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
The Coco-Choco Flan Impossible (fun to eat and to 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 was on this day a vegan avocado and passion fruit sorbet. Refreshing, citrusy, and just creamy enough for a sorbet, it’s the perfect post-spicy-meal-pick-me-up ($8).

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
A colourful and delicious-looking spread

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
Chefs Chomyshyn and Guajardo: partners in business and in life.
The drinks

Among the fun, easy-drinking cocktails, you’ll find classics like the margarita and cuba libre, alongside a tequila-infused take on the jungle bird and a creamy horchata colada. Also: three kinds of micheladas, two house-made canned cocktails, a mostly local beer menu, and of course, Jarritos and Mexican Coke.

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What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
The spicy Ciele Rojo is essentially a beer-based caesar. A blend of Modelo Especial, Clamato, lime, and a guajillo chile salt rim make for a zingy banger of a drink. $12.

 

What's on the menu at Fonda Balam, a new sit-down Mexican restaurant from the team behind the summer's hottest taco pop-up
And here it is again, with some of its boozy friends.
The space

The entire room, designed by Emil Teleki of I-V design, centres around counter seating for casual diner vibes—it’s basically a big rectangle around a bar, complete with handy throughways for servers to navigate. Thanks to its chill vibe, it’s as good a spot for a night out as it is for a quick lunch. Cacti and colourful folk masks made by Indigenous Mexican artists line the walls. And the glass block windows? Guajardo says they bring him right back to his grandmother’s house.

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

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