70-09 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Mexican restaurants tend to fall into two main camps: upscale ones like Dos Caminos and cheap ones like Five Burros. There are some others of course, but these two take up most of the pie chart. Forest Hills doesn't have any upscale Mexican yet, but it does have cheap. With Marianella's gone, I ventured forth to Sgt. Garcia's, the large, second-floor restaurant near Barnes & Noble.
Sgt. Garcia's is large and, with half of its seating outdoors but under shade, I would have expected it to be far more crowded than it was. Not that it was empty or anything, but it wasn't crowded by any stretch. It being seven hundred degrees out this evening, Pike and I opted for the air conditioned interior and took a seat by the wall.
Mexican restaurants have yet to embrace the craft beer craze by importing Mexican microbrews, so Garcia's has the standard Mexican beer selection of Corona's and Negro Modelos along with margaritas and daiquiris. Pike and I just had soda, but factor in an extra few bucks if you drink. $6 for bottle of beer up to $48 if you want a pitcher of pina coladas.
Pike and I split the Guacamole with chips. You aren't given very much but, even with relatively little, we didn't get very far into it. The guacamole was extremely bland, the chips were tasteless, and the salsa was thin and far far far too mild. Nothing was disgusting. It didn't taste bad. It just didn't taste anything.
The entree menu can run from cheap taqueria standards like tacos and enchiladas to more high end stuff like grilled salmon in a tangerine glaze. We went cheap. Garcia's "platos tradicionales" menu has enchiladas, tacos, burritos, chimichangas, toastados, and chili rellenos. You can pick any two for $14 or any three for $16. We each chose two, thinking we wouldn't go overboard. Little did we know how much food Garcia's gives out.
What you see below is either my plate or Pike's. We got different things but both plates came buried in cheese, rice, and rice. Halfway through the meal I could have easily crawled under the table and passed out. I ordered the Beef Burrito, a soft corn-shelled pocket of ground beef and Mexican fillin's and the Beef Chili Relleno a large chili pepper filled with ground beef and cheese... then topped off with more cheese. Don't eat at Garcia's if you're lactose intolerant. The burrito was very good in that it was better than the average burrito you might find at, say, Chipotle and I preferred the burrito to the chili relleno, which I was expecting to like more, but it fell a little flat. No flavors jumped out at me. Meanwhile Pike ordered a Beef Chimichanga, which was the best of the bunch because, well, anything deep fried automatically wins. Now imagine deep frying a taco. Impossible to go wrong. He also ordered a Chicken Enchilada, which he preferred over the chimichanga and which I thought tasted just like my burrito. In the end, most of these flavors somewhat clump together under the onslaught of refried beans and sour cream. Nothing is really that different and everything tasted good, if forgettable. I certainly don't recommend appetizers.
Naturally, comparisons with Five Burros are necessary. If the typical crowd at Five Burros is young and loud, the crowd here is... not. FB is practically a college bar. The music pumps, girls dress sexy when they go, there are a throng of smokers milling around the entrance all the time, it's open later than almost any restaurant in the area. Sgt. Garcia's isn't geriatric, but the people here seemed more interested in hanging out and eating than in being someplace popular. To be fair, the food at FB might actually be slightly better (certainly the chips are), but not by such a margin that it's really worth waiting a half an hour to get a table and not by such a margin that it's worth me waving a money-clenched fist at the bartender for ten solid minutes to get his attention because he was too busy flirting with Ms. Redhead in the sequined shirt and fuck-me pumps (Hey, I get it. I like redheads in fuck-me pumps, too. Just get my drink first. You'll have the whole rest of the night to get shot down, I promise). My point is, Garcia's is a good backup if you want to avoid the crowd and if you go with friends you're more likely to get a table quickly.
A mountain of food, a relatively untouched appetizer, two sodas, tax and tip, came to about $30 per person.
And if any readers have had any of the entrees, feel free to leave a comment describing it. I tend to go to cheap Mexican restaurants for cheap Mexican food. It never crosses my wallet to order anything but the comfort food standards.