Plaza Garibaldi

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very good

 

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inexpensive May, 2004 2

935 Washington Ave.
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 922-2370

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I don't know how much longer we can call the area around Ninth and Washington the "Italian Market" as increasingly more Vietnamese, Mexican and other ethnic restaurants, markets and shops find a home there. I certainly hope I'll forever be able to drop by Claudios for a chunk of Reggiano, a few slices of Prosciutto di Parma, and some Philly addytude, but it's becoming just as common to find rice noodles as ravioli, a good development really, but the moniker "Italian Market" is less accurate every day.

This isn't new, I had my first Vietnamese food on Washinton Avenue years ago at the old Saigon restaurant, so it's fitting that this same space is now the site of some of the most satisfying Mexican food I've had in a while. Plaza Garibaldi isn't fancy, but is a step up in atmosphere from the harsh florescent vibe of Taqueria La Veracruzana across Washington Avenue. I took it as a good sign that we were the only non-Mexicans in the place, it's clearly a popular authentic spot for a quick bite or a serious meal.

We started with three mind-blowing tacos filled with steak and chorizo sausage, with a squeeze of lime, a little guacamole, the fresh soft corn tortillas just barely containing the spicy, juicy fillings.

The Carnitas tacos are quite traditional, with large chunks of roasted pork simply dressed with cilantro, onions and that dolop of guac. They are very similar to the ones at the taqueria across the street, and I'll have to cop to being a culinary ethnophobe here, this roast pork is just too fatty for my taste. In fact there were more than a few large chunks of pure fat among the leaner large cubes. I know, it adds flavor, many people like it... I didn't. I much prefer the the more stewy pulled-pork style that I've had at other places.

Sincronisadas was a good starter, basically a ham and cheese quesadilla with a creamy chipotle sauce. I'll admit that we actually ordered it because we were amused by the name, but we're glad we did. It had a familiar, homey feel, a grilled cheese sandwich on flour tortillas transported by the smoky chipotle dip.

DDP had the mole enchiladas, three large chicken enchiladas smothered in an excellent deep, dark mole, one of those ultimate sauces with about 250 ingredients. On our second visit he decided to be wild and have...the exact same thing. He says he didn't remember having them the first time, but swears he liked them more the second time. This actually makes sense if you keep in mind that he's chronically sleep deprived.

I had the same enchiladas but "Suizas" style with a thick creamy green sauce. Delicious and filling. PhDDP had the Suizas on our second visit and gave a thumbs up as well. VDP had the vegetarian enchiladas (we were not a very imaginative group that night) which were similar to the Suizas, but, of course, with fresh vegetables rather than chicken. All dishes had a pleasing level of spice, not punishingly hot, but enough to keep things interesting.

There's lots more on the menu, so we're going back to try the rest, we've all enjoyed everything so far. Service is pretty casual, and not perfect, at one point someone came and took away our water glasses rather than refilling them, but our waitresses have been otherwise very pleasant.

This is a wonderful addition to the city's dining scene, and a great niche-filler: simple, inexpensive, homey food, but a step up from a taco joint. The three tacos were about $5, Enchiladas, (a very substantial meal with 3 large enchiladas, refritos and rice) about $9. There's a good selection of Mexican sodas, juices and smoothies.


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