The transition of Austin’s culinary scene has witnessed tremendous changes in a relatively short time period of the last several years. We’ve seen countless restaurants come and go, including many of the old establishments that have been familiar to Austinites that have lived here for more than a couple of decades.
Despite the changes of the culinary atomosphere in Austin, there is never a deficit of Mexican and Tex-Mex establishments available on nearly every corner of the city. A testament of elegance and authenticity in interior Mexican cuisine has never been better represented in Austin than it has been with the celebrated presence of Fonda San Miguel.
Fonda San Miguel opened it’s doors in 1975, establishing itself as one of the most notable landmark Texas restaurants that focuses exclusively on true regional Mexican cuisine. Since the restaurant’s inception, co-founders Miguel Ravago and Tom Gilliland spared no expense to obtain the freshest ingredients and spices from Mexico, transcending the way Austinites have enjoyed Mexican cuisine over the last several decades.
Since opening in the 1970s, the restaurant’s reputation quickly spread around the state, making it one of the most celebrated and popular spots in Texas. The restaurant has been known to host notable visitors and celeberties throughout the years, such as Presidents Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush. Fonda’s popularity and noteriety also reached esteemed heights in 1993 and 1995, when Miguel was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City.
After over 40 years in operation, owner Tom Gilliland’s personal touch in creating the distinctive look of Fonda’s interior, can be seen all over the restaurant. Since the 1980’s he’s commissioned talented artists like Nestor Melchor Ojeda and Chucho Moreno, to help create Fonda’s remarkable museum-like art exhibits. Chucho Moreno’s talent is accentuated in the restaurant’s bar, which was designed, hand carved and painted by his own hand. Nestor Ojeda’s exceptional art work can be seen in his vibrant, hand-sculpted animal carvings showcased around the restaurant. These museum-quality carvings of his vividly immaginative animals provide colorful and stunning creations which highlight the use of his natually sourced paints.
Tom’s keen eye for presentation can be seen in his sui generis selections of paintings and accents throughout the restaurant. Recent renovations of new furniture and light fixtures have only added to the restaurant’s well known charm and style. A portion of the upgrades include comfy new furniture with hand crafted leather stools and chairs surrounding the bar and atrium. The beautifully refined 12-seat bar features a prestine black marble finish beneath the mohogany counter top, boasting a comfortable ambiance guests will find warm and inviting.
One of the most impressive aspects of the restaurant is the new addition of the beautiful ambient lighting, seen among the five new light fixtures and chandeliers hoisted in the atrium and dining rooms. Each chandelier expresses luxe elements of 19th century Mexican affluence as well a modern approach to hospitality. The chandelier in the atrium highlights the shimmering, beaded curtains of light featured in a set of dangling bulbs and reflective copper blades suspended below the skylight. The dining room fixtures accentuate a warm and romantic tone that’s inviting and comforting for nearly any guest looking for a relaxing dining experience.
Considered by many as “Austin’s most beautiful restaurant,” the collection of museum-quality artwork, exotic plants, and international décor has made Fonda San Miguel an ideal spot for an exquisite dining experience. The restaurant itself is a celebration of this distinctive cuisine and it’s rich colorful history. It’s transforming influence can even be seen in Mexican restaurants around the country, where culinary connoisseurs, art lovers and architects look to Fonda for inspiration. With the upgrade in recent renovations, Fonda San Miguel continues garner respect and celebration among the culinary community in Austin.