After doing reviews for several years now, I have developed a checklist for determining if a restaurant is going to be good based on observations alone. Taqueria El Fogon, a small Mexican dive located just north of Harry in the shadow of Via Christi St. Joseph, was the latest establishment I put to the test.
First off is the vivid paint scheme, on what appears to be an old Taco Tico building. Wild paint schemes on restaurants are a good indication that fun things are happening inside, while I have had good experiences eating in re-purposed Taco Tico buildings, i.e. Fork and Fennel. The next thing I noticed was that duct tape was used for the lettering on the exterior sign. The sign also appeared to be leftover from a former tenant, as “Rent A Wreck” is proudly displayed on top. Cheap signage means they are keeping advertising costs low so they can focus on their product. The nail in the coffin was the “cash only” sign on the door. In my experience you can’t go wrong with a cash only restaurant, it shows they are too busy producing good food to be bothered by technology.
As you can imagine the interior is fairly humble. A few small tables are available for dine-in customers, but they also offer what seems to be a fairly popular carryout business.
The menu is fairly typical of many of the traditional Mexican places in town that specialize in mostly hand held treats including tacos, burritos, and tortas. El Fogon does have a few unique dishes including a sincronizada(a tortilla type grilled sandwich), a gringa(a quesadilla/taco concoction), and alambre(grilled meat and veggies and the possibility of some bacon as well).
El Fogon specializes in al pastor pork, as is evidenced by the massive funnel shaped meat spit that is proudly displayed behind the counter. For me it was a thing of beauty. Sure the Eiffel Tower is impressive, but it’s no pastor pork tower. Al pastor consists of thinly sliced pork shoulder that is marinated in a mildly sweet chili sauce that is pure magic. We of course went with a couple al pastor tacos on our visit, as well as a rajas taco, a barbacoa torta, and the torta Hawaiiana. The al pastor was excellent. The lean meat was tender and had a delicious mild sweet-chili flavor. The rajas taco, which is sauteed strips of mild peppers topped with melted cheese, was good as well. Both tacos came served in the traditional manner with cilantro and onion. The barbacoa torta was basic, but the flavorful beef set it apart from many other places they serve barbacoa. The Hawaiiana torta is basically the kitchen sink torta. This giant sandwich was filled with ham, al pastor, avocado, cheese, slices of pineapple, and perhaps some other ingredients. The sandwich was simply overwhelming, but in a good way. My taste buds were assaulted from all directions and they liked it.
After our visit, El Fogon quickly vaulted into my top three Mexican restaurants in Wichita. This is a very simple place, but they excel at serving excellent traditional Mexican street food. Go try some al pastor pork and you won’t be disappointed and neither will your wallet as tacos start at $1.50.