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Garcia’s fills serious gap in Mexican restaurants

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Mexican food is one of my loves. I grew up in Southern California where it was a staple. As a teenager, one of my favorite dinners was homemade tacos. We never used pre-made shells. We had fresh tortillas in every grocery store and we fried our own. I still do.

We also had many excellent Mexican restaurants to choose from. So when I moved to Tennessee 16 years ago, the lack of good Mexican food was a difficult part of my transition. I remember driving from Hendersonville to Nashville for fresh tortillas and my beloved Las Palmas Enchilada Sauce. The only way to enjoy quality Mexican food was to cook it myself. And, believe me, I’ve cooked it all. I considered opening my own restaurant.

However, Middle Tennessee has come a long way without my help. I can now buy fresh tortillas in all the grocery stores. I can find my Las Palmas sauce and Rosarita Refried Beans at Kroger. The quality of Mexican food in restaurants has improved, although I am still aware that I’m not in California anymore. (Nor would I care to be!)

I’ve tried quite a few Mexican restaurants in Murfreesboro since moving here in 2003. I have enjoyed La Siesta specifically for their cheese enchiladas (the best I could find). The newer Camino Real on Church Street has the best pablano rellenos I’ve eaten in Tennessee. They also serve a wonderfully fresh guacamole casero. It’s freshly prepared and, in my opinion, the best in town. But until recently, I hadn’t found a Mexican restaurant that offered a full menu of delicious options to suit my taste.

A few weeks ago, Post reader and fellow California transplant, Lisa Davitian, sent me an e-mail suggesting I try Garcia’s, located in the new Publix shopping center on Franklin Road. She told me how much she had been missing good Mexican food until she found this restaurant. She wrote that Garcia’s was so good she could eat there every day. Since receiving her e-mail, I have eaten there numerous times. It’s a wonderful find.

Chips and salsa provide the first test of a Mexican restaurant. A good salsa should be fresh and chunky, with cilantro and a little kick. Garcia’s does not disappoint. Although I prefer freshly made guacamole, Garcia’s is good despite being prepared in advance. I just happen to think that all Mexican restaurants should at least offer a table-side or made-to-order guacamole. Even if they charge a little extra, it’s worth it.

If John liked Mexican food as much as I do, I would eat it several times a week. I enjoy it for lunch with friends because it’s not his thing. However, after I told him how good the shredded beef was at Garcia’s, he suggested dinner there recently. He also gave it a thumbs-up. The beef is actually more chunked than shredded, but it’s as tender as roast cooked all day in a crock pot. John had the shredded beef burrito. It could be a little larger, but what it lacked in size it made up for in taste.

I have been consistently impressed with the quality of food Garcia’s serves. For instance, I don’t normally order fajitas because at many restaurants the pieces of chicken are more like hunks than the thin slices I prefer. I haven’t found them to be tender or particularly tasty in most cases. In contrast, Garcia’s serves tender, thinly sliced, sizzling grilled chicken breast. Their fajitas are outstanding. I haven’t tried the steak fajitas because I usually prefer chicken or seafood. But if their steak is as good as their shredded beef, I’d sure be tempted to try it.

Only a few places do fish tacos well. An authentic fish taco is topped with thin cabbage, pico de gallo and a mildly sweet white sauce in a soft corn tortilla. If you’re lucky, it will also include sliced avocado. Garcia’s offers a delicious fish taco made with all of these ingredients, and they use fresh grilled grouper filets. If I had to name a favorite menu item, I would probably settle on these exceptional fish tacos.

In addition to the fajitas and fish tacos, I have thoroughly enjoyed Garcia’s cheese enchilada, vegetable quesadilla, shredded beef taco, grilled chicken burrito and chicken fajita taco salad. Lisa tells me Garcia’s has a good chile relleno. I have not ordered it because their version is stuffed with chicken, cheese and pecans. I like the authentic relleno; a green chile stuffed with only cheese. Maybe I’ll give this version a try based on her recommendation.

Garcia’s is a long drive across town from where I live, but that won’t be a problem for me. Convenience seldom enters the picture when it comes to a good meal.
Tagged under  FOOD, VOICES

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