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North Guadalajara

Fonda Dona Maria transforms into a colossal palacio

Since the carne en su jugo isn't available, the manager recommends the pork in chile sauce. I order the costillitas de puerco en salsa, pork ribs simmered in a cascabel and tomatillo sauce. The meat is fabulous, slow-simmered until it falls apart, and well soaked in the excellent chile sauce. The only problem is that the ribs have been cut into one-inch pieces, and every bite seems to contain a bit of bone or cartilage. I wrap the meat, along with lots of refried beans and chile sauce, into the freshly made white corn tortillas, and it makes a spectacular taco -- except that I have to fish the inedible bits out of my mouth. Next time, I'll go with the pork tips in chile sauce or the carne adobada and avoid the bones. (Although no one ever said pork ribs were supposed to be easy.)

Red tries a Jalisco combination plate, which the manager described as one of the Tex-Mex offerings on the menu. Curiously, Tex-Mex seems to be the one thing Fonda Dona Maria doesn't do well. When the plate first arrives, the cheese enchilada is wrapped in a flour tortilla (an innocent mistake, perhaps, since Red asked for flour tortillas on the side). We send it back and get a proper Tex-Mex cheese enchilada in a corn tortilla. The taco and tostada are topped with your choice of chicken or fajita meat. The tortillas are fried on the premises, but the platter is nothing to write home to McAllen about.

The chips aren't very good either, and up until recently, the place had never even served margaritas. It's a little comical to fault a local Mexican restaurant for not doing Tex-Mex well. But this place simply does a better job on slow-simmered meat dishes, Mexican breakfasts and other typical south-of-the-border fare than it does with the stuff Houstonians are used to. Which means you have to approach the menu with a completely different strategy. Try the guisados, the pork dishes and the beef for dinner, and forget about the combo platters.

In living color: Fonda Dona Maria's brightly hued interior is like a Mexican mercado with food.
Troy Fields
In living color: Fonda Dona Maria's brightly hued interior is like a Mexican mercado with food.

Location Info

Map

Fonda Dona Maria

120 Tidwell
Houston, TX 77022

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Details

713-695-5540. Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Licuado: $2.25
Huevos mexicanos: $4.95
Menudo (small): $5.50
Costillitas de puerco en salsa: $7.95
Jalisco combination plate: $7.95

120 Tidwell

Until now, Fonda Dona Maria had served an overwhelmingly Hispanic clientele. With its renovations and menu changes, I suspect it will soon attract a wider audience. No doubt a different crowd will bring changes, for both the better and the worse. For the time being, though, this place doesn't speak English. It's very refreshing. Stop by soon, before we ruin the place.

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