In Spanish “fonda” means “inn." And while the warm, inviting Mexican restaurant on Pico in Mid-City is built to look like a welcome place to rest your head, it is the people and food inside that bring to life its name, Alta California Fonda.
The Esquivel family opened the restaurant in February 2014, with matriarch Martha running the kitchen, her husband Rey providing capital and food service expertise, daughter Nicole serving customers, and son Michael doing a little bit of everything.
“I grew up in the neighborhood,” Michael says, “and we saw that Pico has a lot of potential and wanted to be a part of that. We wanted to give hard-working people from the community very delicious food that you can usually find in places like Beverly Hills or Santa Monica.”
While Michael mostly works as the restaurant’s general manager, he also serves tables and does a lot of cooking on the weekends, experimenting with new flavors and dishes. Martha is the real heart behind the menu, cooking everything from scratch, checking food quality and making all final culinary decisions. Owning and running such a tight-knit family business can be a challenge. “The most important thing is that we like what we do.” says Michael. “The restaurant has brought us closer because we like bringing really good food to people and making customers smile and want to come back. To my mother and me, food is art.”
While there may be art being served inside Alta California Fonda, outside on Pico Bl there are improvements that would be welcome by the Esquivel family, such as more street lighting and less vacant storefronts. Michael recently learned about the City’s new Arts Activation Fund and wants to partner with an artist to create a piece, perhaps on the exterior of his restaurant. He hopes it will help make Pico a more colorful street and bring more foot traffic and business. “It would let people know the street is changing.” he says.
And also invite more people into his family’s “fonda”.
Alta California Fonda | 5303 W. Pico Blvd