Whenever I’m visiting a new Mexican restaurant and sopitos are on the menu, that’s the first thing I’m ordering.

They’re a relatively uncomplicated dish, but how they’re made can reveal a lot about the kitchen: how the meat is prepared, how the masa is fried and what it’s topped with. At La Fonda, the masa shell has a nice crunchy feel, and the asada is dry, flavorful and generous.

Topped with plenty of lettuce, tomato sauce and a generous dollop of sour cream, the sopito also comes with a further choice of three homemade salsas. Order it with rice and beans and you’ll get delicious fluffy rice and cheese-topped refried beans. From start to finish, it feels like something a friend would whip up for you, if your friend was a professional chef.

That’s the best way to describe La Fonda: visiting a friend’s house. Granted, you’re really sitting in a retrofitted diner, but the compact size means that you’ll be hearing everything from the kitchen. The grill area divides the dining room from the main kitchen, and no matter where you’re sitting you’ll hear the clang of pans as another order comes up. The staff will even sing along with the radio.

While there’s not a lot of decoration, the dining area is clean and well-lit. And, while it may look small, it has a bigger-on-the-inside feel to it. Two large families were enjoying their meals in the wall booths, feeling like they took up a mere fraction of the space.

A single sopito will run you $8.50, and adding the rice and beans will cost an extra $3.25. There’s no alcohol available, but there’s plenty of coffee and soft drinks (including both aguas frescas and Jarritos). And if for some reason your children don’t like what’s on the menu, there’s even a small selection of kid-favorites: grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers and chicken strips.

I should note that this review started on a Sunday, about 10 minutes after the posted closing time. Walking by, the “OPEN” sign was still lit and the aforementioned families were in no hurry to finish their meals. Hesitantly I went in, almost feeling like I was intruding. I expressed confusion to the server, but she just gave me a grin, waved to a table, and said not to worry about it.

As long as there are people still here, she said, “we won’t close.”