This is the original joint owned by the family that runs Melody's over on Reseda. They have similar color schemes, in that just about every color is present, especially an electric blue on the walls and enough smiling porcelain sun-god faces to wonder if you're being spied upon.
Las Fuentes is bigger in every respect, but possesses a tighter heavy-duty production assembly. There is an area to order, an area to pick up your drinks and baskets of warm chips, an area to pick up your food, a time to every purpose, under Heaven, etc. Once they call your order in English and Spanish through the loudspeaker, wade through the sea of shuffling people bearing trays and tubs of salsa.
I'm unsure how they accomplish this, considering the high volume of customers, but I'd say Las Fuentes is the better kitchen. This lovely tortilla-cloaked example has no red sauce on it; it's skin-on, wonderfully grilled chicken, and nothing else. No onions (although you put some on from the salsa bar), no cilantro (although you put some on from the salsa bar), and no salsa (etc.). It is glorious and textured, like a crackly mouthful of chicharron.
Not to be outdone, the writhing, violently colored mass that is the Taco de Machaca has enough content to force you to use a fork until it is half gone, at which time you can safely pick it up. The tender, tomato-reddened stew meat seems almost too good for the two poor corn tortillas.
And, oh. This. Another taco you want to try, if only once, is the Taco de Carne con Queso, a thing of savory, explosive beauty. It's cubed steak with tomatoes, with white cheese melted over it, and you aren't sure whether to eat it or pull it up to your shoulders and take a cozy nap under it. A schmear of beans rests underneath for traction. This will cure your hangover... or really, your desire to do anything afterwards.
Whatever meat you order with the Burrito Especial will be deluged with a mass of tasty refried beans and thick slices of avocado. I crave the Al Pastor with its moodily seasoned demeanor and its crispy edges. You can get them Gringo Style, which means there's ranchera sauce and melted cheese over it. The quesadillas, too, are piled high and startle you with the sheer amount of food they hook you up with.
I am very sad at being so full. I have, intentionally and with malice aforethought, eaten too much Las Fuentes, and it is all the fault of my dear friend Doug R. I blame friend Erik H., too, because they used to come here all the time after the clubs closed and I never knew about it.
Las Fuentes is open every day at eight in the morning, so you can get your Huevos al Gusto or your Papas con Chorizo, until 11 at night. A claustrophobic strip along the building serves as a parking lot, for both the restaurant and the folkloric art gallery next door.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, The Valley )
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