Review: Garage Taco Bar
June 15, 2016
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This latest addition to the downtown Binghamton restaurant scene is located in a former auto repair shop. Friends of mine spoke highly of the work on their cars there. I do not expect similar comments about the current occupant. The décor is supposed to have a garage theme but that is pretty much limited to the front end of an old Chevrolet on the wall behind the bar and a few dozen wheels above it. The rest of the space, filled with retro Formica-topped tables, reminds me of my high school cafeteria. In nice weather, the garage doors open onto a patio furnished with picnic tables giving the place an improvised look. And, like most restaurants today, the sound level was just below the threshold of pain.
Unless you are seated at the bar, you order your food at a counter where you are given a number to place on whatever table you choose to sit at. Presumably your meal will be delivered to you. At the bar, you order from your bartender. And then you wait…and wait…and wait. Finally, your food arrives—in one or more rectangular cardboard bowls accompanied by a plastic spork.
Since the Garage calls itself a taco bar, one would expect it to have tacos. But at 8 PM on a Tuesday evening two of the five flavors of tacos, carne asada and carnitas, were sold out leaving pollo asado, frijoles y queso, and tofurizo. Tacos are served as a “dinner” of two with a side from a modest list and your choice of salsa, all for $8. I ordered the first two with a side of Mexican rice…and I waited…for about twenty minutes even though the place was perhaps 10% full. For a signature dish, the tacos were a huge disappointment. They were flour tortillas hard in spots, soft in others, filled, respectively with perhaps a tablespoon of finely shredded chicken with no discernable flavor and a like amount of bland cheddar with a few canned black beans. The rice was yellow and served with one cilantro leaf which I suppose made it “Mexican.” Since I like really hot food, I opted for the hot salsa. It was basically chopped habaneros with too much heat and not enough flavor. I would have asked to try the medium hot salsa had I been able to get the bartender’s attention. I passed up a couple local brews for a Mexican beer, Modelo, on draft. That was a mistake. The beer was cold enough, but sour and reminiscent of American mass-market swill.
I have in the past criticized local restaurants for overly large servings but the Garage Taco Bar is at the opposite extreme. Their dinner is barely enough to be an appetizer and rather overpriced for what you get. I would pay a bit more to have tacos worthy of being a meal. And I would really like a choice of corn or flour tortilla and perhaps of hard or soft tacos. In fairness, the Garage has only been open for a couple of weeks so perhaps in time the food will improve and be prepared in a more reasonable length of time. Meanwhile, if you have a yen for Mexican fast food I recommend Chipotle or Moe’s.
Garage Taco Bar
211 Washington Street
Binghamton, NY 13901