|What does that mean?|
When I look at the ratings I assign to La Fogata, I wonder why it isn't my favourite Mexican restaurant in town.
I think La Fogata must have the most pleasant patio dining in town. Seated in a small courtyard, seven tables around a central fountain, with flowering plants growing all around in such profusion as to make it seem that those seven tables are the entire restaurant (they aren't, not even close), we could really appreciate one of those fine September afternoons that so quickly make up for summer in this subtropical desert.
We started with shelf margaritas, which were large and cold and tangy. White and purple orchids in each were a slightly frou-frou touch that emphasized the bahia atmosphere --- I felt at times like I was in Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende --- without seeming just too girly. The drinks were potent and tart, and if they never make anyone's Ten Best list, still they serve their purpose well. The chips were reasonably fresh for the down-slope from the lunch rush, but they could easily have been a little better. The salsa wasn't the tomato-based traditional salsa that I generally prefer, but was roasted dark and spicy and good. The sparrows like it, too: one threw a small bit of tortilla chip into our bowl and waited while I fished it out, then pounced on it like a cat on a cockroach. (Ooh, I maybe shouldn't mention cockroaches, even in passing, when favourably reviewing a restaurant. Oh, well, too late.) And the tortillas were fresh from the grill, hot and soft and yummy.
My lunch was chile relleno, served with rice and charro beans (substituted for the frijoles refritos that are normally served with the dish). It was lightly fried in a good batter, generously stuffed with beef, but the mixture seemed to lack something: it was all beef and seasoning, and while some people might actually prefer to have just meat in their chile relleno, I like the mixture of meat and veggies that I think of as customary in the dish. It wasn't until I looked up their on-line menu while writing this that I realized I hadn't gotten the guacamole that was supposed to come with the plate; but since I don't much like guacamole anyway, and would have pawned it off on my tablemate, I'm not going to count off for that ... though I will mention it.
My lunch partner had fajitas rancheras. He didn't say much about it, but considering how quickly it disappeared, leaving nothing but a small puddle of juice on his plate, I guess he liked it just fine.
As revenge for him not offering me a taste of his dish (and since he was paying for lunch) I tried the pastel de tres leches, which was served in an elegant presentation with small designs of chocolate sauce around the plate and a mutilated strawberry on top (I'm too snobbish about strawberries to eat any that don't come from my grandfather's farm), and it was sooooooooo good. Just writing about it makes me think maybe I'll go back for another piece. But better not. Still, it will incline me to think of La Fogata when lunch rolls around. As will good weather.
So: overall, the food at La Fogata is good, but there are at least 37 Mexican restaurants in San Antonio with better. The prices are reasonable, and when you compare them to the prices at those other 37 restaurants, they seem better than average; hence the three-chile rating. What really sets La Fogata apart from its competitiion is the excellent service --- in our case, provided by Xavier --- that is attentive, courteous and prompt (and thorough, except for the guacamole issue) but not at all overbearing; and, of course, that marvellous patio. This is the time of year to enjoy La Fogata.