One of the more low-key success stories on the local restaurant scene is the small La Fonda Taqueria y Mariscos chain, with four locations — two in Bakersfield, one each in Wasco and Shafter. It’s an exceptional value noted for authentic Mexican cuisine in a casual family atmosphere, with everything, even the tortillas, prepared with a home-cooked charm.

We were reminded about the place during a week that brought us to the Auto Mall for two different car repairs, and, while spending time in the waiting room, we ambled over to the location on the south end of the collection of camping and vehicle businesses. If we worked in the neighborhood, we’d be headed there a lot as they offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, and seem to be packed at all times of the day. (The other Bakersfield location is on Niles, where it’s something of an institution.) 

At breakfast, we just cannot resist the huevos rancheros con chile verde ($8.49) and the machaca burrito ($6.49). Both were excellent on recent visits. The only complaint we had was that the corn tortilla used in the huevos was far from crispy, which we prefer, especially with the soupy chili verde on top, but any dissatisfaction was tempered by the slivers of fresh guacamole on top of the egg. The chile verde had firm chunks of pork and was medium spicy, the egg over easy so the yolk would blend into the verde. There was useless iceberg lettuce as a garnish, completely unnecessary. Get it with some of their fresh-made flour tortillas, which are excellently imperfect.

The machaca is about the best in town, lots of beef, onions, green peppers and eggs all mixed together inside the tortilla. I love the way they fold their burritos here, a trend we also noticed in a shrimp burrito ($8.99) we got one day at dinner. The ingredients are well-blended, so you get a uniform taste as you eat it. Too many restaurants don’t blend anything in the burrito construction process so one bite is all meat, another too much rice. Mixing about as well as males and females do at a junior high dance. Not cool.

The shrimp used in the burrito are medium sized and fresh tasting, a tad smaller than what we’ve received on the shrimp plates here in the past. Remember this is a casual place, so they presented it on a plate wrapped up in foil and paper. My companion thought that was so handy if you wanted to take part of it home, but this beast was not leaving the premises unconsumed. It’s a bit soupy with all those ingredients, so you may need to lay it down and use a fork, but it’s worth the trouble.

As you might guess from the name, they have a fair number of seafood choices, though most are shrimp with a few tilapia plates and the crispy fried red snapper plate that is so fun to eat. If you’re in the market for spicy, we can recommend the camarones a la diabla ($11.99) which has a nice bite.

My companion got a taco salad ($6.99), which you can get with any of 10 meats including tongue, cheek and tripe. She chose asada and just to confirm the meat choice got an asada taco on the side ($1.79). It was presented in a fried flour shell with a mix of sour cream, guacamole and what seemed like a ranch dressing with just a bit of pico de gallo salsa. There were beans and rice, too. Like most of the food here, the emphasis is simple and authentic.

This is a real family place, with functional tables, an order at the counter system and table service for the food without sticks holding numbers. They just find you. Don’t know how. No wine, but there are a dozen beers, foreign and domestic, to choose from and those trendy micheladas (beer with lime, tomato juice and spices added) as well as Mexican sodas including 7Up and Squirt. You know Mexican soda is trendy when Smart & Final is selling it by the case. There’s a salsa bar near the counter, and the flat screens were tuned not to playoff baseball but soccer games. And the prices here are really a savior when you’ve got more month than money.

Visit once and you’ll understand why this is not a place that needs to advertise. They’ve got all the business they can handle.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at