By Christine Basile
While most students traveled down to warm, sunny locations for spring break, I found myself looking for my own tropical getaway here in Niagara Falls. I craved the flavors that most students would be finding from our neighbors to the south, and at a decent price to treat myself and a guest to lunch. After a look at the restaurants in the area, I ended up at the Office Max plaza on Niagara Falls Boulevard and Military Road.
While the outside is extremely deceiving, La Galera Mexican Restaurant is a family-style restaurant featuring authentic, south-of-the-border flavors. As soon as you step inside, you are transported to a warm, welcoming location far from the brisk spring weather.
Upon our arrival to the restaurant for lunch, we were taken to our table. Fresh salsa and chips were provided as we sat down to look at the menu. The salsa featured fresh produce such as tomatoes, onions and cilantro with a sharp bite of spice from jalapeno peppers. The chips were warm and evenly salted, accompanying the salsa perfectly and adding an element of crunch to the pairing. As we looked over the menu, we ordered the house-made guacamole ($2.85) to go with our chips. This guacamole easily outshined the salsa. While most guacamole is chunky with generous pieces of red onion, cilantro and avocado, this rendition of the dip was smooth with strong flavors of onion, garlic and cilantro. It was made with fresh ingredients and tantalized our taste buds as we browsed the menu.
The extensive menu at La Galera covered all of the Mexican staples, including house creations made by the kitchen staff, chimichangas and burritos. After exploring the menu and enjoying our appetizers, we placed our order. I ordered the house special called the "Piña Fiesta," and my guest ordered the lunch portion of the chicken chimichangas. The food was brought out barely 10 minutes after we placed our order and we were impressed with the portion size and flavors.
The "Piña Fiesta" ($11.95) was an interesting concept that caught my eye just based on the order's description. The thought of all of the ingredients cooked and served within a pineapple shell was an exceptionally innovative, but not so common practice here in Niagara Falls. As the plate came to the table, the aroma of pineapple, beef, chicken and spices excited the senses. Upon first glance, slices of chicken and beef mingled with a combination of sweet green bell peppers, onions and pineapple. The earthy flavors of the spices on the meat blended with mild flavors of the vegetable. The cubes of caramelized, grilled pineapple tied the dish together perfectly. The dish was evenly seasoned and well cooked. Each bite created excitement for the next, producing an enjoyable and delectable experience.
The chicken chimichangas ($6.85) were equally as satisfying, giving a decent sized portion with excellent flavors. Filled with melted cheese and heavily seasoned, moist chicken, this chimichanga, smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with guacamole and a slice of tomato, lived up to all it should be. The decadent sauce, rich in flavor with a mouthwatering combination of spices with a kick from the jalapeno peppers, was drizzled over top of the generous lunch portion. While the sauce provided a slight spice, the guacamole added a cool and refreshing note and created a delicious combination of flavor. While most chimichangas are deep fried until a crispy, golden brown, this particular chimichanga had crispy edges, but a softer middle section. While there was a slight lack of crispiness, the flavors of this dish definitely satisfied until the very end.
Overall, while the food was delicious, the service was not as good as could be hoped for. The wait staff seemed aloof and distracted by other personal issues at hand. While the food was delivered promptly and on time, it seemed that maybe one or two of the wait staff actually interacted with the customers out of the six seen in the restaurant. While servers were not very sincere and seemed slightly distant, it was not uncomfortable enough to ruin the meal or experience.
While La Galera is a small, family-style restaurant that blends into the businesses surrounding it, the flavors are far from bland and boring. Even though the service was not the greatest, the food and décor were the true stars of the experience. This restaurant has flavors and style that will have guests coming back for lunches and dinners in the future.
Edited by Sarina Deacon and Danielle Farrell
Designed by Christine Basile