Salsa dance

Chicken fajitas sizzle at Reno's La Fonda de Don Juan.

Chicken fajitas sizzle at Reno's La Fonda de Don Juan.

Photo/Allison Young

La Fonda de Don Juan is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Anchoring a well-worn strip mall in southeast Reno, La Fonda de Don Juan is a Mexican restaurant adorned with Mesoamerican reliefs and bold colors. It’s also a Latin dance club. Oh, and there’s a sushi bar, because why not? We thought the side room was a banquet or buffet space; no signage indicated sushi was available and it wasn’t on the menu. I doubt you’ll find another dance club serving fajitas and California rolls side by side. Or maybe that’s a new trend?

Our first impression upon entry was, “Wow, this place is really dead at 6 p.m. on a weeknight.” Ours was only one of three tables served in the time we were there. By way of full disclosure, we visited on a different night and were met by a completely empty room, not even a server in sight. From what I’ve heard, they do a brisk business on Friday and Saturday dance nights, so that must be how they’re keeping the lights on. These days, I dance only at weddings when properly anesthetized, so let’s focus on the food.

Warm, lightly salted, exceptionally thin and crispy tortilla chips were served with a chunky medium-hot salsa cruda, a smoother and hotter salsa picante, and a mildly-seasoned serving of frijoles refritos con queso. Nothing better than some good bean and cheese dip paired with hot salsas to get things started.

While deciding on entrées, we ordered a plate of flautitas ($6.99) and two-for-one Margaritas ($7). The Margaritas were served in schooners over ice with no mention of the frozen tourist variety, just the way the tequila gods intended. If I want a Slushee, I’ll go to a convenience store. Serving as perfect mate to our refreshing beverages, small fried rolls of corn tortilla stuffed with a choice of chicken or beef—I suggest ordering both—were hot-and-crispy good on their own. Add a dip of spicy sauce and you’ve got something that is sure to satisfy.

Despite a menu with a dizzying array of intriguing options, my wife settled on chicken fajitas and was not disappointed ($14.99). The sizzling, steaming strips of grilled onion, chili pepper and meat were served with warm corn tortillas, fresh guacamole and salsa. The presentation and flavor of this Tex-Mex favorite was pretty exceptional. In hindsight, I wish I’d ordered the same thing.

I love chiles relleno and often order them at new places hoping to find something special. I like plenty of cheese, but should still be able to taste the poblano pepper. I appreciate a rich sauce, but I don’t want it to drown the crispy, fried coating I’m looking for. Sadly, the version served with my two item combination plate ($9.99) was drowned in a thick, pasty tomato sauce that didn’t deliver anything worthwhile. I’ve encountered this style before and have been just as nonplussed by the lack of crispy exterior and cheese that is barely melted. Luckily, the carne asada taco, rice, refried beans and housemade guacamole on the plate were all pretty tasty. Great seasoning on the beef, and the salsa taquera was full of zip. Next time I’ll skip the stuffed pepper disappointment and order something that better complements the meal.

Our hostess—and as it turns out, co-owner—wore many hats, acting as server, bartender, and quite possibly chef (she disappeared into the kitchen more than once). Though we declined to order dessert, she brought a small slice of complimentary flan with the check and insisted we must try it. It was about mid-range in taste and texture as far as flan goes, but was made sweeter by the sentiment it represented.