La Fogata serves deliciously upscale Mexican food in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
Step through the door at La Fogata’s new modern building along Shary Road in Mission, Texas, and you know you’re in for something special. This upscale Mexican restaurant’s tall ceilings, white tablecloths, oversized paintings and ceramics, and attentive waiters all shout fine dining Mexican-style. And fine it is.
The appetizers ($7-15) include some of the usual Mexican specialties like guacamole, but also rarer finds like marrow and sweetbreads. Soup offerings include seafood, black bean, and noodles with marrow. The selection of seafood and meats ($17-34) is large with options like Gulf shrimp and tilapia, and plenty of red meat like cowboy steaks, prime rib, chateaubriand, filet mignon, and cabrerias (goat). In fact, La Fogata is so proud of their meats, a waiter comes by showing off big cuts of red meat, a thick filet of fish, and a whole red snapper. They offer only one “traditional” Mexican plate with enchiladas, beans, rice, etc.
We started with a basket of fresh chips and pico de gallo (chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and chilies with a splash of lime), a smooth avocado sauce, and two red-orange salsas of varying spiciness. Then we ordered a couple of appetizers – sweetbreads (mollejas) and melted cheese with chorizo (queso fundito with chistorra). Both dishes were generous servings.
The sweetbreads arrived on a large serving tray, cooked to a satisfying crispness, with sautéed onions. The waiter brought two tortilla warmers, one with a pile of house made flour tortillas, another with corn.
Then a waitress arrived with our queso fundito on a cart and she proceeded to mix the melted cheese with the cooked chorizo before placing a large plate of it on our table. We hungrily made sweetbread and queso/chorizo tacos, slathered with salsas. The crispy sweetbreads were slightly sweet and the fundito was satisfyingly creamy with a bit of heat from the spicy sausage.
Next came cups of charro bean soup, a relatively thin, but über-flavorful soup, with just enough beans, onion, tomato, and bits of bacons to give it some chewiness. A splash of fresh lime made this a delicious repast and one I could have eaten as a meal. The Farro Bean Soup was some of the best bean soup we’ve ever tasted, but the language barrier with our waiter, who spoke little English, prevented us from procuring the recipe.
Tasty Grilled Goat
The appetizers and soup were so tasty, we ruined our appetites for one of La Fogata’s big steaks. RFT Editor Anne Weaver had never eaten goat and really wanted to try it, so we decided to split the Cabrerías, two thin, bone-in goat steaks sautéed with sliced onion. It came with a baked potato topped with melted cheeses and more tortillas. Unfortunately, we had some mis-communication with our waiter, and the goat arrived well done with the juice cooked right out of it. We flagged down the waiter (who got someone who spoke more English to help) and told him we wanted our meat medium-rare.
The second time around we weren’t disappointed. The goat was perfectly cooked and juicy and a bit smoky. We sliced up pieces and stuffed those delectable house made tortillas with strips of succulent meat, onions, cheesy potato, and salsa. It was a flavor that took me right back to eating tacos under a crude lean-to in the shadow of Paricutin volcano in Central Mexico.
Our waiter brought the dessert cart loaded with house made cakes – carrot, berry, chocolate, guava, and tres leche as well as flan and piña colada cheesecake. Our tight belts prevented us from eating dessert, but we did take a slice of their cheesecake back to our hotel and found it to be a light, almost frothy, dessert studded with pieces of chewy pineapple.
Real bottom line: If you’re in the mood for fine Mexican dining in the Rio Grande Valley, La Fogata is a solidly delicious choice. Next time, we’ll try to leave room to experience their steak or fish choices, that is, if we can stop eating those soft handmade tortillas. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor