Posted By Marlene Steinberg
4/17/2013 12:04:00 AM
I started eating at Las Fuentes in 1982, the year they opened. I spotted the tiny Mexican restaurant on a drive through the San Fernando Valley and, never having seen it before, I had to stop. The menu looked like that of a full-service Mexican restaurant, but you ordered and paid at the counter, and waited for your number to be called. It was a tiny place with pictures of Pancho Villa adorning the walls.
I filled the plastic cups up at the salsa bar, taking pico de gallo, diced jalapenos, onions, and a new salsa I'd never seen before. It was a very dark brown and looked like it was made solely with crushed chilies.
When my order of two soft carne asada (steak) tacos and rice were ready, I was surprised at the amount of meat in the tortillas. Enough freshly grilled flank steak for four tacos was stuffed into two. I dressed one with pico de gallo and the other with the jalapenos, onions, and brown salsa that I learned is called salsa negra. With the first bite of that salsa negra-topped taco, I knew I'd be back. What incredible flavor!
I was back the next day to try other dishes. The chile relleno filled the plate and was covered with another extremely good-tasting sauce. I had to go back! Next time I ordered the trout plate. I have never had such consistently great dishes at a taco joint.
Las Fuentes is 23 miles from home and, for years, I was there at least two or three times a month. I knew they were going to be successful. I watched them expand three times while the pictures of Pancho Villa changed to Arte de Mexico. The family that owns Las Fuentes decorated the restaurant in brightly colored items from Mexico. The items were so popular that when the store next door became vacant they opened up a retail shop selling the very items with which they decorate.
I now purchase pints of salsa negra to go along with my dine-in meal order. I just have to have it available at all times.