Fonda Cantina opens late night walk-up window, serves late-night authentic Mexican cuisine


Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern

Fonda Cantina opened its late-night window on Thursday

Shannon Tyler and Cole Reynolds

The window is easy to miss. So much so that, on Fonda Cantina’s first night open late, a few customers doubled back after walking past the entrance. It’s just a bit of orange lettering with an arrow pointing toward a door, hiding in a dimly lit portion of Clark Street.

The Mexican restaurant, which opened three months ago, began its late-night hours Thursday night, launching its slightly inconspicuous walk-up window open from 9 p.m. to midnight.  

Just steps away from Northwestern’s campus, Fonda’s new late hours and handmade tacos are already making impressions.

“The fact that they’re doing late-night food, that’s a game changer in Evanston,” Weinberg junior Gage McWeeny said.

The restaurant features Chef Miguel Escobar’s family recipes from Guerrero, Mexico. Managing Partner Sergio Angel said they wanted to bring authentic Mexican food to Evanston customers. 

“When you go to Fonda, you’re tasting the everyday food that Miguel eats at his house or the food that I eat in my house, or at gatherings with my family,”  Angel said. 

Angel said the restaurant wants to keep serving authentic food to the community at later hours. He said they wanted to expand the late night food options for NU students in particular.

After speaking with several students, Angel said many only bought pizza or chain restaurant food late at night. He wanted to change that by providing an authentic late night option. 

“(I thought) we gotta do something for them, because I know some of them have late classes. They get out at nine, get out at ten. What can we do for them? We don’t want you to just eat the same thing every night,” Angel said. 

Those authentic recipes have brought McWeeny back into the spacious restaurant repeatedly. 

The al pastor tacos, which he ordered Thursday night, are his favorite, he said.

“I’ve been like five times, and they haven’t been open very long,” McWeeny said. “I’m a fan for sure.”

La Fonda opened in February, and their tacos can also come with carnitas, carne asada, fried fish or fried shrimp. They’re wrapped tightly in aluminum foil –– causing Weinberg seniors Ashley Witarsa and Thomas Zhu, who ordered together, to rummage through their shared order to determine which taco was which.

When he finally found his al pastor taco, Zhu wasn’t especially impressed. While they are “not bad,” the taco didn’t have as much depth of flavor and wasn’t as moist as he expected, Zhu said.

However, Fonda’s long hours have changed the game for Zhu. While he’ll stick with Tomate Fresh Kitchen during the daytime –– the joint closes at 6 p.m. ––  Zhu said he’ll “definitely” come back for Fonda’s late night service. 

“I really appreciate (the late night hours),” Zhu said. “Evanston…it’s ridiculous that there’s no late night option.”

Currently, just seven Evanston food establishments are open past midnight on Saturdays within one mile of NU, according to Yelp.

Fonda might continue to extend its hours even deeper into the night, according to Fonda’s Senior Managing Partner Michael Lachowicz. 

“If it goes well until midnight, we’re gonna stay up until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays because why not?” Lachowicz said. 

Angel said Fonda Cantina is a vision he and Escobar had for a long time. They waited for the right time and pursued the restaurant venture with Lachowicz — who the pair both had worked with for more than a decade. 

In the three months they have been open, Angel and Lachowicz said the Evanston and NU communities have embraced their vision with open arms. 

“We knew it was not going to be hard to be busy here because we have all the followers that we have from the surrounding neighborhoods, but man, the Evanston community, it’s been so wonderful, they’ve been great,” Angel said. 

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Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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