Old Favorite

Tucson classic La Fuente is worth a visit if you haven't been there in a while

It had been at least a decade since I'd visited La Fuente Restaurant prior to this review. The long absence was not because I had any bad experiences in the past; I just didn't have any memorable ones, and the location is not in a part of town that I often frequent, so it managed to slip my mind.

After my two weeknight dinner visits, I was a little saddened that it had.

The pipian rojo estilo Puebla ($16.99) was the star of the first visit. I chose to have mine with pork rather than chicken, and the crispy but tender shredded pork was the perfect complement to the piquant, nutty red sauce. The portion was very generous, with enough leftovers to feed two at lunch the next day. Ted's camaron à la Fuente ($17.99) was also very good; the coolness of the sour cream and heat from the chipotle balanced each other nicely. The shrimp were big, plentiful and not overcooked. My only nitpick was that I got flour tortillas with my entrée, and Ted got corn tortillas with his; tortilla types weren't specified on the menu, and the server didn't ask what type we wanted.

On the appetizer front, the fresh guacamole ($2.75 per person) was indeed fresh, with big chunks of avocado and tomato. Our server thoughtfully brought out lots of extra chips, since many of them had disappeared along with the tangy, slightly spicy salsa while we waited on the rest of our food. The chiles toritos ($9.99) are some of the best I've had at any Mexican restaurant in Tucson (and I order them whenever I see them on the menu—I'm a sucker for shrimp, cheese and bacon) and were far from mild. However, our margaritas ($5.50 for the house version) provided a tasty fire-quencher.

On my second visit to La Fuente, I decided to treat my dad to dinner. We were only one of maybe three or four tables in the restaurant, but the service was just as good as it had been on the busy first evening. He is a tequila enthusiast, and was impressed with the small but varied selection of tequilas, ordering a Don Julio 1942, which ended up being a generous pour of smooth, fruity tequila. After perusing the menu for a while, we decided to start with the ceviche ($12.99) and the tortilla soup ($7.99). The ceviche came out first, and was a huge bowl of freshly chopped pico de gallo and large shrimp chunks in a nice red broth. Although it did not seem like a traditional ceviche (in which the shrimp is cooked by the acid of citrus juices), it was tasty nonetheless, and was chopped into a size where it was easily scooped onto the chips.

The tortilla soup was a huge portion, more than enough for two to share, and was delivered steaming-hot to the table. The tortilla strips were delightful and crispy, and there was avocado and melted cheese aplenty. Overall, it was good, though the broth was a little on the salty side.

The only downside to these huge portions was that by the time the entrées arrived, I was almost full. My dad's beef à la tampiqueña ($18.99) was cooked to order, and was tender with a nice, smoky flavor. My chiles rellenos ($12.99) were made with poblano chiles, which was a nice change from the long, light-green Anaheim-style chiles that many restaurants use. They were filled to the brim with salty, melted cheese, and had a nice crisp exterior—but one of the chiles was de-seeded, and one wasn't.

I'm glad that I got to take a fresh look at La Fuente, even though the restaurant has been around for more than 50 years. Maybe the next time I'm in the neighborhood, I'll stop in. They also offer a lunch buffet and a lower-priced lunch menu with the same features as the dinner menu, and a $14.99 champagne brunch on Sunday.