Historic EV restaurant moves to Chandler - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Historic EV restaurant moves to Chandler

June 24th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Historic EV restaurant moves to Chandler

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

It’s not often a 55-year-old restaurant gets to celebrate a grand opening, but that’s what La Fonda Mexican Restaurant did recently.

The popular family-owned eatery decided to move to Chandler after decades of operating in Tempe.

“My sister and I we found this location,” said Angela Cota, who co-owns the restaurant with her sister. “We wanted to go back to the original … small, cozy. That big restaurant that we had was just a nightmare.”

Angela’s grandmother opened the original La Fonda in 1967 at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Curry in Tempe. Even with the stiff competition that is Mexican food in the Valley, they built a reputation for fresh chips and salsa and great service.

That helped them survive 55 years, even during downturns in the economy.

“Our chips and salsa, that’s probably what people compliment us most about,” Angela said. “When you walk in our door, that’s when we make them, so like they are hot.”

In 2004 Angela and her husband opened a second La Fonda location, this one in south Chandler at Alma School and Queen Creek roads. However, she had to close it a few years later because of the economic downturn caused by the banking crisis in 2008.

She returned to help her family at the original location.

“A few months after that, we found out that our landlord was going to sell the property at Scottsdale and Curry to build some big fancy apartments on it. So then we had to move.”

She said they decided to go big, so they moved into a 6,000-square foot place that included a bar at McClintock Drive and Baseline Roads in Tempe in 2012. It never really succeeded at that scale, but they stayed there for a decade.

However, the owner sold the property and once again La Fonda had to move.

The owners closed their doors in November and reopened in Chandler in March.

“When we opened, people were like, ‘Oh, you’re back,’” Angela said. “And, you know, they said they didn’t go [to Tempe] because it was just a little too far. They said, but this is close enough. So I’m seeing those customers now.”

The Chandler location has allowed them to get back to the same type of restaurant Angela’s grandmother started 55 years ago. It’s small, and it’s definitely a family affair. Even though Angela’s parents have retired, they are often there to help out. In addition to her sister, her brother also chips in.

She said they were able to hire a full staff because most of their employees enjoyed working for them and waited for the new location to open up. That’s despite a worker shortage that has many businesses desperate to hire new employees.

Angela said they only needed to fill one position.

But the decision to reopen in Chandler and keep the 55-year-old tradition going wasn’t easy. Angela said and her sister had to think about it.

“Then my cook, who is my kitchen manager now and has been with me for over 20 years, he helped me run my place in South Chandler, he said, ‘You know, what will you do? And you’re crazy. It’s 55 years, you can’t throw that all away.’ So he kind of pushed me, and convinced me. ‘Let’s keep it going.’”

Information: lafondatempe.com