Casa Garcia (8814 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 9, Metairie, 504-464-0354; co-owner Octavio Garcia started the casual dining spot with his brothers Tony and Chris more than 30 years ago. Made from family recipes, its hearty Mexican offerings pay homage to Garcia's heritage.

  "I found that in the South, people are very proud of their Cajun food," Garcia says over a backdrop of soft Latin music. "So it was my goal to make a lot of believers in my food."

  The Mexican sampler is a behemoth platter that includes a beef taco, mini flauta, chimichangas, charro beans and a tamale with ancho sauce. Entrees include seafood, poultry, beef and vegetarian items filling fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, platters, salads and wraps. "Casa"-made flan — a traditional caramel custard dish topped with whipped cream and slivered almonds — is a popular dessert.

  The family-friendly restaurant has booths surrounding a lush fountain. Catering orders for 15 diners or more can be delivered anywhere in the New Orleans area or diners can pick up orders at the restaurant. Weekday happy hour includes free chips, salad and bean dip and is 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. There also are specials on wine, beer and house-made sangria.

  The Garcias maintain a family business, and the restaurant's second generation, mostly college students, works at the restaurant on weekends and during school breaks. They provide the same service upon which Casa Garcia was founded.

  "I consider myself the pioneer of the Mexican restaurant," Garcia says, noting that many area restaurants followed in his footsteps. "Back [when we opened], when you talked about Mexican food, people only knew tacos and enchiladas, and we wanted to share more."

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