Get the latest news delivered daily!

Get the latest news delivered daily!
It was a hot Sunday at lunchtime on the eastern side of the San Gabriel Valley, and I felt in need of the solace of some refried beans and rice, crispy taco chips and salsa, guacamole and perhaps some huevos rancheros (a dish I’ve loved forever). I meandered into a number of small, mini-mall Mexican cafes. But they all seemed to swelter in the noonday sun, with not nearly enough ventilation.
And that’s how I came to be back at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants north of Tijuana: the spacious, joyous, crowded-as-always Fonda Don Chon, which sits on the eccentrically named Shoppers Lane in Covina, just off Citrus Avenue. It’s a shoppers lane with no shoppers, but with lots of diners.
There used to be a lunch and brunch buffet at Don Chon. But like a lot of all-you-can-eat/help-yourself options, the buffet faded away — a victim in most cases of financial necessities and, of course, Covid. But that hasn’t diminished the quantities of food on every table a whit. No matter how many diners were crammed around the table, there was barely enough room for all the plates; arranging them all was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle consisting of burritos, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas — and so much more.
During my visit, one of the diners at a table of two near me was busy inhaling the seafood molcajete — a steaming volcanic rock dish of shrimp and octopus, cactus and melted cheese, pico de gallo and tomatillo sauces, rice and beans and, of course, tortillas. Always tortillas, corn or flour, served hot in a traditional round container.
The other diner was faced with the even more imposing Supreme Molcajete — a combination of charbroiled chicken, beef and shrimp, along with grilled nopales and scallions, with soft Oaxacan cheese scattered here and there. It comes with a little Mexican flag on top, as if it were big enough to be declared a colony of Mexico. (I argue that Shoppers Lane should be renamed Eaters Lane.)
Though Fonda Don Chon is only open early in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays, its breakfast menu is available seven days a week. And for those of us who dream of the Breakfast Comal — two eggs over Mexican potatoes mixed with chorizo, peppers and ranchera sauce — the time of day doesn’t really matter. The Don Chon breakfasts are good at any hour.
There are 13 dishes on the breakfast menu, which is more than I remember encountering on any menu in Mexico — and I’ve been south of the border to eat more than a few times. (Trips that included such off-the-beaten-path destinations as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is famous for its amazing corn cakes; and San Cristobal de las Casas, which is legend for being way the heck up in the clouds.)
I like the Mexican take on breakfast. There’s no stinting on calories or flavor. Like I said, there are few restaurants that do huevos rancheros as well — in this case, the tortilla is topped with two eggs, along with ham, pepper, onions, crumbly cotija cheese, and lots of salsa, with refried beans and spicy, crispy potatoes on the side.
The tortilla strips in the chilaquiles are sautéed with red or green sauce, then topped with cotija cheese and eggs. I like the idea of huevos a la Mexicana or huevos divorciados for lunch. But then, there’s so much to choose from.
For those who feel overwhelmed by the encyclopedic menu, simply head for Chon’s Sampler — chiles toritos, chimichangas, cheese sticks, chicken wings. Add on some guac, and you’re pretty much done. But why would you want to be? After waiting on the sidewalk for a table, the desire to eat more is palpable.

The door to the men’s room is a work of art at Fonda Don Chon. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

Sombreros line one of the walls at Fonda Don Chon in Covina. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

Welcome to one of the busiest Mexican restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, Fonda Don Chon — a super popular Covina destination that’s open daily for lunch and dinner, and also for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

I am weak in the presence of a proper chicken mole — which in this case involves a very tender chicken breast, topped with lots (lots!) of sweet-spicy mole sauce, made (according to the menu) with more than 20 ingredients. It’s the sort of sauce you find yourself licking off your plate, while others stare. Let them stare; it’s good!
There are seven combo plates, mixing and matching the usual suspects. The seventh of them is actually numbered “777” — a lucky combination on the slot machine. And a darn whimsical thing to do. But then, Don Chon is full of unexpected whimsy.
Little Mexican flags show up all over the place. The selection of flavored margaritas is crazy — lime, strawberry, hibiscus, pomegranate, sour apple, watermelon, mango and peach. The camarones aguachile — a heavy favorite — wouldn’t be out of place on a Szechuan menu; it’s that hot.
They do lots of fajitas — including one made with shrimp and scallops; another with chicken, beef and shrimp. And they do them well. For dessert, there’s the Jalisco Trio: tres leches cake, bunuelos with ice cream and arroz con leche.
This is a restaurant that makes people happy. And the crowds are more than happy to show up.
Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Email mreats@aol.com.
We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.
Get the latest news delivered daily!
Copyright © 2022 MediaNews Group


Shop Sephari