This week we decided to do away with our daytime service at La Fondita. There are many factors for our reasoning, none greater than us wanting to use our time, energy, and resources doing the things that best represent the spirit behind what we love doing as a culinary team. What do I mean exactly, well… if you have been to our restaurants you know just how much pride we take on feeding you what we consider to be a unique take on Mexican cuisine. Whether we are talking about República, Lilia, or De Noche, the experiences at each one of those restaurants are like no-other Mexican restaurants in this city, and for the most part this country. La Fondita has been a learning experience. The original concept was a spin-off of our daytime restaurant at Republica. A concept that was fast, casual, and approachable. When we decided to move that concept over to an entirely different location it lost a lot of that familiarity. Now, I have to admit, most of the things that went wrong were self-inflicted. First, we took what was a pretty simple and approachable menu, and expanded on it, adding many unfamiliar dishes that most folks only glanced over. People were often confused about things like “Molletes” or “Huevos Encobijados”. It took us a week before we added descriptions to it all and at that point the menu read like a glossary. It was a mess. . Second, we attempted to create a large community space, literally! When we opened the doors, we only had two large tables and one bar-seating option where strangers were meant to sit next to each other and take in all of the beauty of our food and community. It was a very idealistic way to experience it all and everyone pretty much hated the idea, in retrospect I don’t blame them. Third, we had too much talent for one small kitchen. Let me rephrase, we had too many people in the kitchen who were pulled from República and were asked to do a style of food that was very nostalgic but not professionally rewarding. Immediately, we began to feel the frustration and the disconnect between the day-time staff and the evening staff, it wasn’t bad during the busy days. However, on those not-so busy days we had way too many people for one tiny space. And they grew frustrated. Fourth, and this one hurts, very early on, we did not do enough to make the experience memorable or great. And that's a hard truth and could have been an easy problem to fix by simply having everyone order at the register OR hiring more experienced personnel. But, the reality is the service at La Fondita never reflected the service ANYWHERE in our other concepts. Last, despite all of that La Fondita was turning a profit and all of those things I mentioned above were for the most part corrected, however at the end of the day I found that it was only right to step away from fast-casual programs, mostly because it isn’t what we truly enjoy doing. República is an incredible experience. As is Lilia, and now De Noche. They require a different type of production that allows us to share the stories of etymology of the food and the culture. La Fondita’s fast-casual approach did not give us room for that. Every day was different, often filled by uncertainties entirely out of our control. From Timbers daytime games, to 90+ degree days, to “far too cold” days, to even the occasional protests happening around Downtown, we never knew what to expect and who was going to show up! It’s not like that in the evenings. People's state of mind is different when it comes to dinner. It is not the same” volume” game or quick “turning of tables” game. It is far more predictable and dare I say far more relaxed. It took us 6 months to realize that we did not want to sell x20 orders of Chillaquiles and x20 orders of Pozole or x20 orders of Tacotes to break even for the day. We are in the “have a seat and let us feed you” business, we don’t enjoy “fast casual” quite the same. And that’s as much as I can tell you about that learning experience. With that said, let me tell you about “La Fondita” 2.0.
It’s going to be wonderful! We are taking all of that beautiful food and all that incredible talent to an area of Portland that we believe will appreciate this incredible new concept. The new La Fondita will be an evening dining experience,focused on an A-la-carte menu that will give you the option to order the “Chef’s Tasting for Two, nightly..
I know what you are thinking, isn’t that what we already do at De Noche and Lilia?
Kinda… but the food will be different. It will be familiar but not quite exactly the same.
Below, you can see what to expect from our menu come 2023.
For now, just an immense thank you to all of you who supported our daytime concept for the last 2 years. If you are worried about food during these hours, know that Matutina Cafe is just 3 blocks from the old La Fondita space, we promise to have something incredible to offer you for brunch.