Editor reviews Lawrence’s newest Mexican restaurant


Tierney Thompson

The sign at Port Fonda’s.

Much to my surprise, Port Fonda is not Spanish for ‘hipster.’ Located on the corner of 9th and New Hampshire, Port Fonda is Lawrence’s newest Mexican restaurant.

I walked in at 1:45 on a Saturday afternoon and was immediately seated. The restaurant decor was chic and clean. A stainless steel bar went down the middle of the room, with alternating orange and brown bar chairs. Large open bar seating was to the left, and tables to the right. Everything was shiny and clean, with a lingering scent of fresh paint. While it’s always nice to eat in a clean restaurant, it was weird coming into a Mexican restaurant with no correlating decor or aroma.

When we were seated, we were given the ‘Desayuno’ menu. Although that is Spanish for breakfast, ‘brunch’ was parenthesized beside it. Underneath the title were the specifications: “Served Saturday and Sunday from 9 am – 3 pm.” Typically, I am not looking for breakfast or even brunch food at two in the afternoon, so I was surprised this was the menu run for the majority of the day. After a little research, I found they offered another menu dubbed “Almuerzo & Cena.” With 28 different options, I think I would’ve found something to eat easier from this lunch and dinner menu, especially given the limited options on the ‘brunch’ menu.  

After 15 minutes of looking over the menu, our KU t-shirt clad waitress got up from eating at a back table to take our orders. I ordered the double decker breakfast tacos, and my date, pollo (chicken) enchiladas. In a last minute impulse I also ordered ordered dona de requeson (ricotta doughnuts), to share.

As we waited for our food to arrive, we puzzled over the fact that only some of the menu is in Spanish. My dish was described as “fresh corn tortillas, chihuahua cheese, eggs scrambled with nopales (Opuntia cacti) and frijoles (beans), salsa del dia (salsa of the day), served with hot-ranch fried potatoes,” and my date’s as, “roasted chicken, chihuahua cheese, salsa ranchera (ranchera sauce), crema (sour cream), radish salad.”  Why didn’t Port Fonda either use Spanish completely, or not at all? The menu sounded like a know-it-all in Spanish 2 who knows his vegetables and just intermixes his limited vocabulary with English to prove it.

When the food came around about 15 minutes later, it was very aesthetically pleasing. The enchiladas came in a nicely portioned pan, and the breakfast tacos were adorned with brightly colored vegetables. The doughnuts sat in a bowl of a tres leches (a Spanish milk concoction) with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries floating around them.

The best word I can use to describe the meal is unique. It was by no means bad, but it offered a blend of different flavors I wouldn’t typically encounter, or put together. For example, the chihuahua sauce that is included on most meals is made from cow’s milk, but tangier and sharper than cheddar cheese. Unique! The doughnuts were the only part of the meal I think could please anyone’s preference. The tres leches and fruit combination was delicious, definitely the most enjoyed part for both my date and me.

At restaurants, my stomach is always my guide, never my wallet. This came back to haunt me when the check was placed on our table, however. For the three dishes (no drinks, no extras) it was $36.30. With tip, $41.74. That is five Chipotle burritos … Something I would’ve enjoyed far more.

Overall, the atmosphere of Port Fonda is very chic. Although I would never guess it to be a Mexican restaurant, it’s clean, shiny and aesthetically pleasing. The food wasn’t fantastic, but could be up for debate based on individual preferences. If you’re a curious foodie and your parents are paying, Port Fonda may be the lunch destination for you.