WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Before the influx of the more ethnic Mexican restaurants that arrived here in the past few years, this was about as close as we came to the real deal. The menu is based on a collection of family recipes, but it’s highly Americanized, with all the dishes made popular in the chains here as well as the home-grown eats. A Mexican place with spinach-artichoke dip? Please.
The kitchen has a wide range, with quite a few unique dishes. Seafood is a strong point, beginning with the original and irresistible seafood nachos, topped with crabmeat and shrimp. They’re also better at grilling fish, steak, and chicken than most Mexican places. And their sauces are a cut above. Portions are–as the mainstream has come to expect from their Mexican restaurants–too big to allow the comfortable eating of more than one course. The complimentary bean dip is so good that you can stuff yourself with it if you’re not careful.
It’s hard to believe, but the Metairie location is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the area. In 1984 Octavio and Dorita Garcia opened it and did well enough with it to expand and redecorate a few years later. Their son Steve joined the outfit and, in 2004, opened a second location in Mandeville. Yet a third Casa Garcia opened in 2008 in Hammond.
All are large restaurants with a lot of space. The Metairie location has the feeling of the plaza of some little Mexican town. Very quaint. The Mandeville and Hammond restaurants look more like chain establishments, a shade too roomy and stark for my taste. The bars are not only well stocked but adept at making real drinks, not just frozen margaritas from the machine. Service is by young, friendly people who can sometimes be hard to locate.
»Crabmeat and shrimp nachos.
»Queso dip, with or without add-ons.
Quesadillas, especially the seafood variety.
»Cheese enchiladas with chili ancho sauce.
»Grilled fish tacos.
Shrimp a la diabla (a spicy shrimp Creole) or mojo di ajo (with garlic butter).
»El Numero Uno (grilled marinated chicken).
Costillas di Monterey (barbecue baby back ribs).
»Steak Tampiqueno (grilled filet mignon with a cheese enchilada on the side).
»Tacos al carbon (grilled meats in flour tortillas).
Beef or chicken fajitas.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Take it very easy on the first courses, unless you’ve ordered one of the very few entrees of modest size.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The fajitas are never grilled as hot as one would like. The combo platters would be better if the amount of food on them were reduced by about a third, but the customers would complain. They need to replace tilapia with local fish.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness -1
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Tucked into the corner of an L-shaped strip mall, this family-owned Meexican restaurant is more spacious than you expect. It resembles an outdoor plaza, and is very comfortable.
Casa Garcia cooks all the standard Mexican combination platters reasonably well, within the constraints of its attempt to serve a mainstream suburban clientele. The way to get the to show what they can really do is to break out of the standards and sample their more offbeat dishes. The large section of seafood dishes is a particular specialty. The grilled meats–notably the marinated filet mignon–are very good, and seem absurdly underpriced.
On Sunday, they do a big family-style dinner here with all the basics served in limitless portions. It’s a good way to break the kids into Mexican food.