A couple years ago, any of the avenues north of Broadway were the place to head in Astoria if you were looking for Latin food. Tierras Colombianas on Broadway was your spot if you wanted to satisfy a major meat craving, while Pachanga Patterson on 30th Avenue was the happening restaurant for modern Mexican. But over the past month, the avenues south of Broadway began adding to the neighborhood's Latin flavor inventory, too. The latest restaurant to open is Jorge Loaeza's Chela & Garnacha, a small Mexican joint on 36th Avenue.
If Mexico City native Loaeza's name sounds familiar, it might be; he's also the entrepreneur behind Mexico Blvd, the popular food truck that rolls through Manhattan and Brooklyn during the week.
Chela & Garnacha occupies a small space just a couple blocks from the 36th Avenue stop on the N/Q train. The business is a family affair; the interior was designed and constructed by Loaeza's son, Jordi, who also works the back of house; Jordi's culinary career started at Tom Colicchio's Riverpark.
At their new restaurant, the father-son team serves up a limited menu of garnachas, including ceviche and intrincadas, as well as nine kinds of tacos. The restaurant and the food truck complement each other well; the food truck serves lunch, while the restaurant is open only for dinner from 5-11 p.m. each night.
As for the chelas, there aren't any... yet; while they wait for their liquor license, they encourage guests to bring their own wine or beer for washing down quesadillas de huitlacoche or flor de calabaza ($9 for an order of three), tacos de nopal with panela ($4.50), flautas de papa or frijol ($10 for an order of three), or any of the other traditional Mexican dishes in which they specialize.