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Garcia's offers authentic atmosphere, bland food

By Graig Uhlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 3, 2000
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Garcia's, 419 W. Congress St., is a restaurant chain that, with its food and atmosphere, attempts to transcend the mediocrity that befalls most chain restaurants.

The chain opened its first Tucson restaurant Monday in the historic building that formerly housed Carlos Murphy's Restaurant.

As far as atmosphere is concerned, Garcia's undoubtedly defies the chain-restaurant stigma. The restaurant achieves a relaxed elegance and refinement without sacrificing a welcoming domestic feel.

The building itself is reminiscent of an old Spanish courtyard, and everything from the plush waiting room furniture to the abundance of underworked employees reeks of overcompensation.

The ambiance implied class, but the food told a different story.

While not altogether terrible, the food was too bland for an authentic Mexican restaurant.

Garcia's has the mass appeal that chain restaurants demand, but there are also some delightful signature dishes.

For an appetizer, the poco chimichangas ($5.59 for seven), small fried flour tortillas stuffed with shredded beef or celery and cheese, seemed emblematic of all the food - tasty but mild.

Garcia's entrees offer a selection of chimichangas, tacos, enchiladas and all the other usual Mexican restaurant fare, falling in the $7 to $15 range.

Still, there are some unique options.

The grilled margarita chicken ($7.99) blends the taste of lime with melted cheese and tomatoes. The serving size seemed small, but it was certainly filling.

A variety of vegetarian dishes are also available, including spinach or cheese enchiladas ($6.99) and vegetable fajitas ($9.99). The latter includes a deliciously wide variety of vegetables including zucchini and squash.

This demonstrates Garcia's close eye for details - that and the cute Coronita bottle salt and pepper shakers.

The best dish of the night, however, was dessert. The Cinnamon Tortilla Stack ($3.49) consisted of vanilla ice cream and strawberries served between two crispy cinnamon-sugar flour tortillas and was topped with caramel and whipped cream.

It is an absolute delight, but one might also want to try Garcia's sapodillas ($2.49) - Mexican pastries that come with honey and a heavenly sweet cream cheese for dipping.

Garcia's, if anything, is nice to look at. The waiters may bring chips and salsa to the table more times than necessary, but Garcia's will prove to be a nice spot for dates or just a night out.

Graig Uhlin can be reached at catalyst@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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