We started off our grazing for the day with hot Mary Lee doughnuts. If you haven’t heard of Mary Lee, that wouldn’t surprise me. The only place that I’ve been able to find them have been in the south. I know a lot of people rave about Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but I think Mary Lee are MUCH better. Unfortunately the only place I can find Mary Lee is in Baton Rouge, so it’s a staple of breakfast when we come to visit. In fact, it’s almost a ritual.
On the first morning of our visit, James, Holly’s Father, goes out and purchases 1 – 2 dozen glazed doughnuts. This time he only brought back one, but if there were more people staying with them, he would have brought back an extra. Holly is normally still sleeping and I usually wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee with Judie, while James goes to get the doughnuts. Upon his return, Holly usually wakes up so that she can eat them while they are hot. All doughnuts taste better when they are hot, and Mary Lee are no exception.
This visit was just like other’s in the past, I sipped my coffee until James returned and then hungrily and almost violently devoured three doughnuts in quick succession. You’d think I hadn’t eaten in days the way I attacked those defenseless doughnuts. I don’t know what made me so voraciously hungry for them, but oh baby did they taste good. A few minutes later, Holly came padding into the kitchen, still wiping sleep from her eyes. My wife is a sleeper, but when it comes to food, she’d wake from the dead for something she loves to eat. 😉
So what are Mary Lee doughnuts like? Well, it’s a little hard to describe, but I’ll do my best. They’re round, but have sharp corners that make them almost pentagonal in shape. They are somewhat taller than a Krispy Kreme style doughnut and the glaze is much lighter and sticks to the doughnut better. There’s the familiar round hole in the middle and they are golden in color. When you bite into it, the doughnut has an almost bread-like quality to it. It’s soft and melts in your mouth, but there’s more substance to the dough than with any other doughnut I’ve tried. They are unique and since I only have the opportunity to eat them once or twice a year, I relish these mornings.
There was also another reason that had cause for me to relish this Saturday. Holly’s mother and grandmother were going to teach me how to fix their Seafood Gumbo. I told them on the phone that they couldn’t do a single thing until I go there and they promised that they would walk me through each step of the process. We were planning on having the Gumbo for dinner, so that gave us an opportunity to have something special for lunch. Holly chose her favorite Mexican restaurant – La Fonda’s Mexican Restaurant and Lounge
La Fonda’s is one of those places that you either grew up with, or you someone told you about the place. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall and to my knowledge, they’ve never really advertised. If you’ve never been there and you drove past it, you’d keep on driving. La Fonda’s is located on Airline Hwy, near a section of town that has seen better days. The surrounding businesses are mostly industrial, or mechanical in nature and the restaurant itself could use a facelift. It’s one of those places that was probably very fancy and popular 30 – 40 years ago and hasn’t changed since.
The entrance is in the front of the building, but the parking is in the rear, so most people enter from the rear. When you open the door, you’re pulled into a long dark hallway. There’s some light at the end, so you keep walking and as you do you pass a small bar that looks like it’s been ripped from an episode of NYPD Blue. I’ve been coming to LaFonda’s for over 20 years, but I’ve never had a drink in the bar. It’s a little bit scary. The hall makes a slight rise as you make your way to the front of the building. As you come into the light, you find yourself behind the hostess podium, but there’s never anyone there. Usually a waitress wonders past, or the woman behind the cash register seats you.
Speaking of the cash register, it’s located in a cut out from the wall that forms a small booth. The booth is made of all wood and there are shelves lining the back and side wall. The shelves are filled with brick-a-brack, like maracas and small drums, along with various things for sale. None of the items for sale look like they’ve been purchased in years and thus have simply melded into the rest of the ornamentation. When you’re done with your meal, you walk up to the booth to pay. It’s just one of the many experiences as La Fonda’s that give the impression that “you’re going to dine on our terms.” Instead of catering to you, you’re given the distinct impression you’re catering to them. 🙂
This day the lady behind the register seated us and as we made our way to the table, I noticed that LaFonda’s had done a little remodeling. In the past, the floors were carpeted with a dark maroon, patterned carpet that had seen better days. The tables and chars were made of aluminum and vinyl and they too were getting a little old and rickety. As we sat down, I saw that the entire dining area was fitted with new wrought iron chairs and tables and the floor had Mexican tile in place of the carpet. It was a much needed facelift and brightened up the space considerably. If this is your first time to dine at La Fonda’s, this may be the first time you feel comfortable since entering the building. 😛
Holly, her Mother and Grandmother all browsed the menu, as did I until I realized that I always get the same thing! 🙂 We ordered a round of meat nachos for a shared appetizer and I ordered the Shrimp Quesadilla for my entree. As we waited for our food, we began eating the chips and salsa. Most Mexican restaurants serve a typical salsa, but LaFonda’s is a bit different. The typical one that is served is a brown dip that I’m guessing is some kind of bean dip. If requested, they’ll bring you a red salsa style dip. I find that by mixing the two you get the best combination. 🙂
Overall, the food is pretty greasy, but it’s some of the best Mexican cuisine we’ve ever had. Mind you, it’s not authentic Mexican, or even Tex-Mex, it’s really a style all to it’s own. The owners are Greek, so our guess it’s Greek-Mex? ??? Call it what you will, Holly and I just call it good. We all split the meat nachos for an appetizer and then I had the Shrimp Quesadilla. Their food hit the spot and tasted delicious, but I noticed that I analyzed it a lot more. My brain was trying to pick apart the ingredients to figure out how they seasoned their meat for example. That one is still a mystery, but I think I got a bead on the Quesadilla. 🙂
Overall, LaFonda’s is not your typical Mexican style restaurant and we’ve been unable to find anything close to it anywhere else in all of our travels, but to us it’s one of the highlights when we come home to eat. I know I may have painted a scary picture, but rest assured that it’s a safe, friendly, family owned restaurant that I’ve been eating at since I was a child. If you ever find yourself in Baton Rouge and looking for a little adventure, be sure to check out La Fonda’s
Next Entry: Part 4 – Making Gumbo
Loved your rendition of LaFonda. I laughed until the words turned blurry from my tears! Waiting for the GUMBO COOKING!!!!!!!!
Dear Sir, I could’nt agree with you more. When it comes to Mexican Food ,LaFondas is hard to beat. I have loved to eat there for many years,no other Mexican Restaurants are as good as it,but I have visited some that were close,but no cigar!I agree with you,it’s not really Tex-Mex,but rather a style of cooking,all its own.I thought it was interesting that the owners are of Greek descendant. They look Mexican to me! The older lady who owns it is always very polite and I always have enjoyed speaking to her. Thank You & God Bless, KEN WILLIAMS
This was strange to me to find this posting on LaFondas..My mother told me about it years ago..she use to work there in early 1960’s..she was wondering if the same owners had it and if there was a way to get hold of them..I am not sure if this is the right place to post this for that but i’m giving it a try.