After dragging my in-laws to a tiny hole-in-the-wall for lunch, I thought I’d make it up to them by making a reservation at La Fonda, a comfortable, upscale restaurant in town.
I’d read fantastic reviews about the food at La Fonda — all of them gushing about the hearty, authentic Mexican cuisine. But what really intrigued me about this place was the “pre-Hispanic” section of the menu. What the hell does that mean? I wondered.
It means bugs. People: You can chow on bugs here.
Yes, you read that correctly. Among other delicacies, the menu at La Fonda features maguey worms (gusano de maguey), ant eggs (escamoles), and grasshoppers (chapulines).
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
La Fonda is a bit off the beaten path away from downtown Cabo San Lucas. It’s housed in what looks like an old-school hacienda, and is separated into three spacious dining rooms and a bright, bustling kitchen. The six of us were seated in the main dining room and served by attentive waiters who brought colored pencils and kids menus for our boys, and patiently answered my questions about which bugs to eat.
Seriously: I had a hard time deciding which creepy-crawly dish to order. The ant eggs came highly recommended, but La Fonda had sold out(!) of these caviar-like treats, so we asked the waiter whether we should go for the worms or the grasshoppers. He gave the maguey worms a big thumbs-up, so we ordered up a plate as one of our appetizers.
Before it came, we were treated to a bite-sized amuse-bouche of chicken tostada on a deep-fried corn chip and served with crisp lettuce, sour cream, and spicy salsa.
Our family also enjoyed a couple of bright and flavorful salads. We shared a prosciutto-wrapped “mestiza” salad with grapefruit and pine nuts, and…
…a stacked tricolor salad with fresh tomatoes, eggplant, cheese, and avocado.
And then: The dish our seven-year-old had been dying to eat. Like many first-grade boys, Big-O has a fascination with all sorts of things that make people want to throw up. He’s also into cookbooks. So for his birthday, he asked for (and received) a James Beard Award-winning cookbook entitled "Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects," — and as soon as he heard about the menu at La Fonda, he was altogether giddy about the prospect of dining on insects.
The waiter brought over our plate of deep-fried worms with a dollop of creamy guacamole. These worms are actually fat, fleshy caterpillars that infest maguey plants, and are packed with nutrition: Not only are they chock-full of protein, but a small 100-gram serving contains over 650 calories — enough sustenance to keep a worm-eater going until his or her next meal.
I know — they don’t look very yummy. In fact, they resemble something out of one of my childhood nightmares. I still get totally skeeved out by the wriggling caterpillars that I sometimes encounter in my vegetable CSA box. And those bugs are super-tiny compared with the fleshy monstrosities on the plate that we were served.
But guess what? I’m as squeamish as anyone else, but these worms were delicious. Just close your eyes, dredge a few in guacamole, and pop them in your mouth. They’re satisfyingly crunchy and juicy, with a rich, mouth-filling taste that’s not dissimilar to bacon. Yes, BACON.
See? They’re kid-approved.
If NBC ever launched a kids’ edition of Fear Factor, I’m guessing my son would do just fine in the eating competition.
Between Big-O, Fitbomb, and myself, we polished off the plate of fried worms in no time.
But that’s not all La Fonda had to offer. Our entrees soon arrived — and they were ginormous. The waiter placed before each of us a humongous platter of meat. My mother-in-law tucked into succulent slices of beef tongue with a mildly spicy sauce…
…and my father-in-law had nothing but good things to say about the savory braised short ribs that he ordered. The meat had been slowly braised with dried chiles, and was fall-off-the-bone tender.
Fitbomb and I split an order of the short ribs, too, along with a platter of ajillo pork shank — a bone-in cut cooked in butter, guajillo chiles, and garlic. The sauce was a tad sweet for my taste, but the meat was flavorful and satisfying.
The service at La Fonda was quick and responsive, and the food was remarkable — and not just because the restaurant serves a few things that normally make people shriek and run away. Even if you’re not in the mood for a plate of bugs, you should visit La Fonda for its impeccable authentic Mexican fare. You won’t leave disappointed.