Authentic Mexican can be found in the heart of Fort Lauderdale Beach, nestled inside the Westin Fort Lauderdale. Having been open for almost a year, Lona Cocina Tequileria has gained rave reviews for its truly Mexican cuisine, offering much more than just tacos and enchiladas.
Lona is Chef Pablo Salas’ second culinary venture in the U.S., after opening Pueblo restaurant in Chicago. In addition to food, Lona boasts more than 300 tequilas and mezcals, and its cocktail menu has craft drinks for plenty of palates.
We started the evening off with the ceviche vuelve a la vida, which was paired with the Lona Picante cocktail. Featuring charred octopus, bay scallops, this raw dish packed a powerful citrus flavor with tender seafood.
The Lona Picante is a combination of jalapeno-infused Green Chartreuse liqueur, agave and two kinds of tequila, and it tasted like a perfect classic margarita.
Next up was the lamb tamale, paired with El Tatuaje (Spanish for “tattoo,” which Salas famously has covered all over his body). Bulleit bourbon, kumquats, basil, lemon and agave made for a bold and refreshing cocktail.
Tamales are a typical Mexican menu item, and lamb is a pleasantly different filling that we haven’t seen much.
The croquetas de jamon confitado (which paired well with the pasion caliente caipirinha, made with passion fruit and the house “spicy elixir”) were the perfect blend of potatoes and sweet chipotle.
We are all for experimenting with different flavors, and the salmon mole was no exception. Who though chocolate and seafood could meld so well?
The salmon paired with the La Madam, made with rose, rum, passion fruit puree and Gran Gala orange liqueur
The tender short rib came out with La Curandera, a sharp gin cocktail with lime, agave, grappa and a smoked rosemary sprig.
At the end of the meal, we got to taste a surprise dish we’ve never seen on a Mexican menu — cabbage al fuego. If all vegetables had cotija cheese, truffle oil and cauliflower puree, we would gobble them up and beg for more. The charcoal-roasted cabbage lay on top of a delicious pipian sauce, and it’s an excellent option for vegetarian customers.
For dessert, we tried the baked camembert, a French cheese that Salas put his own spin on with a delicious guava sauce. The Choco Loco Margarita came out with the camembert, but it was good enough to be its own dessert.
After our dining experience, we could consider Lona to be the “soul food” of Mexican cooking. This is upscale dining at an affordable cost.
Lona Cocina Tequileria is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 12 a.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. 321 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. 954-245-3069. lonarestaurant.com.
Olivia Feldman is a contributor for The South Florida Sage. Her favorite foods are anything that involves pasta and her mom’s cooking. When she’s not eating and drinking her way through South Florida, you can find her going to concerts, planning her next travel destination, and hosting her biweekly music show, “Back in Our Minds,” on Jolt Radio. You also can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @oliviafelds All images appearing in this post photographed by Olivia Feldman.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary tasting at Lona. All opinions are my own.