Let’s get the story straight. Garcia’s started as a family “restaurant” in 1956. From its humble beginnings (a taco stand), it grew into 3 locations in the valley. Finally, from there, it ballooned into a national chain. There was a reason: it really was some of the best Mexican food you could find outside of Mexico- or even inside of Mexico! Eventually, the Garcia family sold the chain to Garcia’s (of Scottsdale) and only kept this one, The ORIGINAL, restaurant that still belongs to the family. If you visit any other Garcia’s in the Valley they are not the original. If you use any coupons, those are not the original. And, contrary to one reviewer, this place has been in this location far longer than 20 years because I ate there when I was a child- and that’s a lot longer than 20 years ago. And because of that, the Valley grew up around this place meaning it’s not in the best part of town, not that it ever was in a great part of town. But I’ve visited at night and didn’t feel unsafe other than trying to get out of the parking lot onto 35th Avenue. This is not “old-town”/ Scottsdale. This is not corporate “Mall” food. Now that the historical stage is set for a review of the ORIGINAL Garcia’s of Arizona at 2212 N. 35th Avenue, let’s start.
We went toward the end of lunch. You miss the crowds and you can still get the lunch specials. As is the case with most Mexican restaurants, you get tortilla chips with two kinds of red salsa to start. The chips were excellent (chip lover here) as usual, and not too oily or over/under cooked. The chunkier salsa is my favorite as the other has too much of vinegar taste to me, and is a tad too spicy for this stomach anymore.
As I was the driver, I had to pass on any cocktails, but my dining companion had tea. My companion ordered a cheese enchilada ala carte which came with rice and beans. My companion, who has eaten at the ORIGINAL more years than I have, enjoyed every bite. There is enough cheese to qualify as a cheese enchilada; the tortilla is secondary. Furthermore the cheese is not too salty meaning you don’t need endless refills of tea.
If there is one thing I miss about Arizona, it is Mexican food, in particular, THIS restaurant as it’s the cornerstone from which I judge. Thus, I had my usual combination platter (#10) with a taco, cheese enchilada, and chili relleno. The rice, although overcooked by Asian standards, is ok for Mexican food. It’s mildly spiced and not particularly outstanding. The beans were almost in a puree, which may or may not suit some tastes, but still with chunks of bean to be seen and enjoyed. As I’m not much of a pinto bean person, this was fine as I used the chips and made mini-tostadas with some of the cheese dripping from the enchilada. The chili relleno was fine, but a bit overcooked and with a smaller chili than if you order it ala carte. It lacked the zing of chili flavor from being overcooked: the cheese was a bit overpowering. The taco was also fine, but could have done with a bit more chicken and a bit less cooking of the shell.
Mind you, for me at least, this was/is “fast food” Mexican in a restaurant setting. The food (never have gotten past the combination platters) reflects that and always has. That’s fine. That’s its market. If you are looking for avant garde, Santa Fe or Tex-Mex or some kind of fusion, you’re going to be disappointed. But for good, solid, filling Sonoran style Mexican, it still remains my standard- only because of so many visits; there is a place in Tucson that, well …
Yes, the servers are almost all Mexican/Spanish speakers nowadays and can be rude and/or obnoxious thinking you can’t understand them because you don’t look or sound Latino. Our server was fine and did her job quite satisfactorily. She was tipped accordingly.
When I crave Mexican, I try really hard to go to the ORIGINAL Garcia’s. It’s on my agenda with every visit to the Valley. For price and value no other “real fast food” can compare. The atmosphere is what you make it. (The visit prior to this, the mariachi band played.) It is family owned and operated, not corporate food! And for hearty Sonoran Mexican fare, it can’t be beat.
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