Enchilada and tamale combination plate
For my latest adventure in takeout, I tried La Fogata in Van Nuys. The reason we opted for takeout is that the restaurant itself is not much more ambient than a McDonald's--it has the same faux wood tile and black grout flooring, and while they've done a bit to spruce the place up by putting bullfighting posters and other decor stereotypical to the Spanish-speaking world on the walls, it just isn't the kind of place you go to linger over a meal. As far as Mexican fast food goes, it's not the cheapest, but at least parking is free and more than plentiful, even by Valley standards. They also don't use lard or MSG and have an ample selection of bottled beers, along with margaritas and the usual trio of horchata, jamaica, and tamarindo fountain drinks (the horchata was very sweet, in a good way).
The chips and salsa were probably the best part of the meal, though. The red salsa had a very clean fire-roasted tomato flavor which I really enjoyed even though I generally prefer salsas with a smokier flavor like the kind you get at taco stands. I wish La Fogata didn't charge 50 cents extra for a small bag of chips, but at least you can snag all the salsa you want at the salsa bar. The enchilada was fine, but not memorable. Likewise, the burrito was decent and by no means bad, but there was nothing noteworthy about it. The tamale was soggy, which I didn't even know was possible--but hey, now I will have a greater appreciation for the next good tamale I consume.
La Fogata's carnitas taco was tasty and packed with meat, but it lacked an extra something it needed to make it worth the 90 cent premium over the tacos from Taqueria Emanuel, my favorite taco shop.
Overall, I was unimpressed with both the food I tried and the atmosphere at La Fogata. Not much can be said about the service, since all you do is place your order at a register. The restaurant does seem to be quite popular, though, at least on a Saturday night. This is just one foodie's opinion, but I think you can do better for Mexican food, especially in Van Nuys.
5142 Van Nuys Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403