Mex I Can

If you’re looking for a place to eat, don’t look around the Florida mall. The majority of restaurants in this direction are your typical chains- syndicated food with typical decor and little deviation. Garibaldi’s was indeed a chain restaurant, but it didn’t seem so when we walked in. The staff was friendly but not fake-big-toothed-smile friendly. It was genuine warmth.

We were quickly lead across a small bridge-like walkway to a dining area and stepped up to a comfy booth. The decorations were somewhere between cheesy mexican (queso?) and cinco de mayo pool party. There were colorful plastic squares hung everywhere, corona signs and various Mexican culture posters and items blended with some random things I didn’t quite understand.

The waiter came by and brought us chips and salsa right away. I love that! The chips weren’t salted, but tasted fresh made. They were thin and light so as not to spoil our appetites, and the salsa also seemed fresh made. It wasn’t spicy but was flavorful. ┬áSo we munched on chips while looking at the drinks specials.

They had a 2 for 1 deal on margaritas, so we inwardly shouted “ole!” and ordered them up. Man Biscuit and I silently sighed together when the waiter plopped down four tumblers instead of two. We were of the impression that 2 for 1 implied that there were two of us, and we’d each get one while only paying for one…that was not the case. We should have asked. The cups weren’t large, however, so drinking two wasn’t going to get us plastered, just buzzed.

We began sipping margaritas while perusing the large menu. The margaritas tasted authentic. This was a nice change from the typical super-sweet margarita-like drinks that are really nothing more than a glass of sugar and liquor. These were salty and tangy with the tequila lime twist. Pretty good, and chilled mugs, too.

We decided to order a Sope to share. This was described as a hand-made corn dough, covered with chorizo, lettuce, salsa, sour cream and cheese. For my meal I had to order my favorite Mexican fair – the chimichanga. There’s nothing in this world that can stand up to a fried burrito.

The food arrived more quickly than I expected. It was only a few minutes of quiet chat, margarita sipping and chip-crunching before the food was presented to us. The plates were an explosion of color. The sope was a grand pile of chorizo, lettuce and fixings, so much that we couldn’t see the corn cake. Digging a fork in found it quickly. The cake was moist, warm and delicious. The flavor was balanced well with the chorizo, which after a few bites became tastier still. The mess on top brought it all together and cooled everything down. All in all, a tasty side dish.

After a few bites of sope, I focused on my chimichanga. It was a big burrito, slathered in queso blanco which overtook half the plate. There was bowl-shaped rice on the side, some pico de gallo, guacamole, lettuce and sour cream in little piles. I cut into the chimichanga, and was surprised to find the flavor of the cheese was very bright and tasty. It layered across the top and killed some of the crispness of the fry, but it was tasty enough to be forgiven. Probably one of the best queso experiences I’ve had. I was disappointed with the lack of a crispy shell. I think I may have taken too long with the sope and gave the chimi time to sog. The chimichanga filling was simple and good. Ground beef with a little diced onion and a little spice. When I grabbed some of the guacamole and pico de gallo to make a big bite, it was a great combo. The guacamole also tasted fresh made. It was my favorite type – the kind that’s not processed, but chopped and mixed. It was chunky, fresh and spiced perfectly. I would buy this stuff by the gallon. The pico de gallo was much the same, fresh and bright with flavor.

We were getting lucky with homemade food, so we decided to keep the train rollin’. For dessert, we ordered the Tres Leches. The tag under the title “Made Fresh Daily” definitely caught our eye. When the dessert arrived, it didn’t look like much. A small round pile of something tan, coated in what appeared to be reddi-whip. When my fork bit into the pastry however, cream dribbled from the side. The effect was delightful. The pastry itself was springy, and not turned to mush by the cream. Each bite was wonderful – the cream was sweet and fresh, and the pastry a delight. Even the reddi whip was charming. The plate was decorated with a caramel sauce which had the perfect amount of salt. A great ending to our meal.

Garibaldi was definitely fresh. Everything had a refreshingly fresh quality to it, like the Prince of Bel-Air. The service was friendly and quick, even if the decor was a bit odd. For a chain restaurant, they certainly stood out with home-style cooking, big portions and a remarkably low price.

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