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Livin La Fondita loca

Sound Check: Tiny Mexican joint in Proctor adds regular music nights to your life.

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One of my favorite things in life is to witness two powerful forces colliding to create something greater than either could do on its own. There’s something really compelling about seeing the dots connect and the new form emerge. This happened quietly last summer while no one was watching at a family-owned and operated Mexican restaurant in Tacoma’s posh Proctor District. La Fondita (which is Spanish for “hole in the wall”) is owned by Willy and Lidia Ceria. The Cerias and their children (Monica and Daniel Ceria and nephew Riccardo Cano) all work there together.

Then along came Tacoma sweetheart Johanna Gardner, who has a reputation for throwing fantastic art and music events such as Art in the Park and Urban Art Festival. She had been a frequent patron of the restaurant since she was a teenager.

“I had been going in as a customer for years. Willy’s daughter, Monica, and I were in choir together at Stadium High School.”

Gardner became an employee in May of 2007, shortly after the restaurant was remodeled and expanded to include the new bar area. She quickly proved what an asset she could be to the business. Early this year she became bar manager. 

Her first order of business put her squarely on my Sound Check radar: She announced that La Fondita’s lounge will feature live bands. This is excellent news for local music in Tacoma. Unlike many wannabe promoters, Gardner is experienced with booking events, and she knows how to present bands in their best light.

“There is going to be a wide range of music,” says Gardner, “including jazz, swing, Latin, world music, singer-songwriter, and much more. Variety is the spice of life! Both Willy, and I have an appreciation for all types of music.”

She describes the vibe at La Fondita like this: “The atmosphere is classy, relaxed and inviting.

I can’t really compare it to any other bar. When Willy decided he wanted to expand, it was important to him to do something different and unique.”

Gardner plans to have music every third weekend of the month including a DJ Friday nights and a live band Saturday nights with the occasional Thursday night show thrown in. There will not be a cover charge.

February’s lineup includes DJ dab, DJ BIG CHUCK and DJ Crazy Krystal Friday, Feb. 22, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and one of Tacoma’s best blues artists, Malcolm Clark, Saturday, Feb. 23, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Next month DJ Sugar Jones and Jason Diamond will be in the house Friday, March 21, and soulful/groovy rocker Susan Harper Saturday, March 22.

Gardner also has been hard at work creating a new drink menu that includes some old favorites (with a twist) and some soon-to-be new favorites.

Apparently the food there is pretty good, too. When asked what her favorite menu item is, she says, “The food is amazing! It’s not like a lot of other Mexican restaurants (greasy and heavy) because everything is fresh and made to order. It is hard to pick one favorite, but it’s either the burrito asada or the halibut tacos. Yum!”

She also recommends the brand-new late night menu.

[La Fondita Restaurant, 2620 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.752.2878]

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