Monday, April 13, 2009
La Fonda del Sol
La Fonda del Sol (The Inn of the Sun) originally opened in 1960, and was the creation of Joseph Baum and his Restaurant Associates group. Located in the Time-Life Building on 50th Street and Sixth Avenue, Craig Claiborne called La Fonda del Sol "one of the most lavish Latin-American restaurants north of the border." He continued, "Should this restaurant become a Manhattan attraction to vie with the Empire State Building and the lions at the Public Library [that's us!], it will be well-deserved."
In 1960, four-course dinners at La Fonda cost $5.50, $6.50, or $7.50, depending on the food offerings chosen, and coffee was made table-side. Claiborne's review makes special note of the restaurant's cocktail options, including sangria -- apparently a relatively new libation to NYC restaurants at the time. He writes, "[...T]he management recommends a drink known as Sangria, which is really a wine punch made with citrus juices, Chilean wine, and soda. It is undoubtedly authentic but it would be more suited to warmer climates."
Beyond its culinary offerings, La Fonda was known for its creative and colorful design. The entire restaurant -- from its linens and dishes, to its menus and matchbooks -- was designed by Alexander Girard. Displays of Latin-American folk art, masks, and pottery wheels attracted Spanish-language school groups who apparently arrived en-masse for the $2.50 lunches. The restaurant closed in the early 1970s.
Just a few months ago, La Fonda del Sol re-opened in the Met-Life Building off Park Avenue with Josh DeChellis as head chef. From the photos online it displays nothing of the kitchy aesthetic that marked the restaurant's first incarnation, and while I haven't seen DeChellis' new bill of fare, I thought I'd present the 1960's La Fonda del Sol menu in its full glory.