Bringing Mexico to Amherst: Frontera Grill owner expands with opening of Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant

  • Garcia’s Mexcian Resturant in Amherst, which will have outdoor seating on a patio in the warmer weather, opened in November in the former Bertucci’s location at 51 East Pleasant St. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Federico Mendiola, one of the owners of Garcia's restaurant in Amherst, talks bout the art work he used to decorate the interior. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alex Buck, an employee of Garcia's Mexican Restaurant in Amherst, brings lunch customers their food on Friday afternoon, Feb. 11. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Food made and served at Garcia's restaurant in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Federico Mendiola, center, owns Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant with his brother-in-laws, Juvention Garcia, left, and Elvis Garcia. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Juvention Garcia, Federico Mendiola, and Elvis Garcia, the owners of Garcia's restaurant in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alex Buck, an employee of Garcia's restaurant in Amherst, brings lunch customers their food on Friday afternoon, Feb. 11, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Federico Mendiola, one of the owners of Garcia's restaurant in Amherst, talks bout the art work he used to decorate the interior. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Juvention Garcia, Federico Mendiola, and Elvis Garcia, the owners of Garcia's restaurant in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 2/23/2022 4:22:22 PM
Modified: 2/23/2022 4:21:59 PM

AMHERST — Stepping into Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant is a lot like entering Mexico itself — minus the flight south and west — with its festive atmosphere (Mariachi Mondays and Taco Tuesdays, for example), delicious smells and bright colors.

Handcrafted tiles border archways, weaving between booths. Detailed oil paintings depicting Mexico’s rich culture, architecture and scenery, line the walls, illuminating the restaurants vibrant atmosphere.

This ambiance is by design to create positive vibes, and a restaurant where patrons are happy to eat, drink and be together, said Garcia’s co-owner, Fredrico Mendiola.

“That’s why we do what we do,” said Mendiola, who is originally from the town of Nayarit, located on the coast of southwest Mexico.

Garcia’s is Mendiola’s third Mexican restaurant in the region — he has operated Frontera Grill in Chicopee and Springfield for years — as part of his pursuit to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to western Massachusetts.

Going into business this time with his brother-in-laws, Elvis and Juventino Garcia, the family has experience in the business, having worked as servers and bartenders together throughout the years prior to opening restaurants of their own.

The name of the restaurant, Garcia, is the last name of Mendiola’s wife and two brothers-in-law.

“Before the pandemic hit, we decided to find a place that we thought had a need for an authentic Mexican restaurant” Mendiola said. “As a family, we are very united. We thought it was time to open a new concept of Mexican restaurants with their name and they got behind it from day one.”

Garcia’s, which opened last November in the old Bertucci’s spot at 51 East Pleasant St., is in a great downtown location with ample parking, Mendiola said. Along with attracting town residents and those who live in surrounding communities, the family hopes opening close to the UMass campus will attract students and faculty, as well as those visiting for sports games and university events.

“We’re excited for everything — people to come in and taste food new to the area, our portions are bigger. I feel we have a lot to offer,” Mendiola said.

The decorations spread throughout the restaurant — bright, rich in art and colorful — are designed to bring a bit of his home culture to Amherst. Mendiola personally selected the decorations and furniture, which were imported from Tonola, a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco on the country’s west coast.

A new identity

While comparable to Frontera, Mendiola said Garcia’s carries a different identity. The specially curated menu features classic Mexican entrées, as well as gluten-free options, and a new array of vegan dishes utilizing Impossible meat products. “Why? Because it’s impossible to tell it’s vegan!” Mendiola said with a chuckle.

Vegan menu items such as the Unreal Nachos, and the Impossible Burrito use Impossible beef products, cooked and spiced to mask the flavor of actual meat. The menu also offers all the classic favorites from fajitas to fish tacos on a gluten-free white corn tortilla.

The restaurant’s weekly events, Mariachi Monday and Taco Tuesday, have proven popular.

On Mondays, the Connecticut mariachi band, Emperadores de Puebla, fills the restaurant with the sweet sounds of brass horns, violin, the vihuela and guitarron. The band plays a healthy balance of authentic Mexican music and familiar western singalongs.

Meanwhile, Taco Tuesday features tacos for $1.99 each.

Another feature that Mendiola is excited about is the size of the restaurant, which can seat up to 175 customers at capacity, when patio seating is included during warmer weather. The restaurant offers a plethora of seating options for big parties, as well as an intimate arrangement of booths smaller gatherings, he said.

The restaurant’s ample bar space is equipped with purse hooks and USB ports underneath the bar to keep phones charged during those longer nights out.

Nightclub coming

Speaking of longer nights out, Mendiola hopes to convert Garcia’s into a nightclub Thursday through Saturday night, after the restaurant closes at 9 p.m. The business is waiting on permits to be approved before this addition happens.

Mendiola said the adaptation and growth that comes with starting a new project, and learning to serve a new community is strenuous, and as a business they’ve faced their share of obstacles. But he’s pleased with the response from customers to date, and looks forward to warmer weather when Garcia’s will host a formal grand opening this summer.


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