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  • Plaza Garibaldi has made few changes over its 20 years, keeping its focus on authentic Mexican dishes that appeal to the American appetite.
    Zach Sparks
    Plaza Garibaldi has made few changes over its 20 years, keeping its focus on authentic Mexican dishes that appeal to the American appetite.

Plaza Garibaldi Celebrates 20 Years Of Serving Savory Tex-Mex Food

Zach Sparks
View Bio
June 14, 2017

When Plaza Garibaldi owner Maria Aguilar recently ran into the woman who originally leased the property where her restaurant now sits, the two shared a laugh. Twenty years ago when Aguilar was looking to occupy the space in Glen Burnie, the property owner was apprehensive because of challenges faced by Plaza Garibaldi’s predecessors.

“She said, ‘Maybe people miss the entrance [because of the trees] or the people in the restaurants don’t know how to cook,’” Aguilar recalled. “She didn’t want to lease it to another restaurant because she was losing money.”

Not only did Plaza Garibaldi survive those first few years, but it has thrived for the last two decades, serving up Tex-Mex food from 1997 — when Chi-Chi’s and Taco Bell were the only competitors — to now, as the area has witnessed a boon of Mexican dining establishments.

Aguilar had more faith in the restaurant’s potential success than the well-intentioned property owner. After all, Aguilar’s family had built a life in the United States through hard work and dedication. When Aguilar was born, her mother trekked from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, as a cleaning lady. After Aguilar’s infancy, her father moved the family to California to take a job in a nursery, and her sister introduced the family to the dining industry by working at La Tolteca.

After learning the importance of hard work and garnering experience in a string of eateries across the country, Aguilar opened Plaza Garibaldi, and she has made few changes over the years. She had the location renovated because “it looked like an old Burger King,” and she heeded the advice of patrons who wanted to see specific items included on the menu.

“We added fish tacos; enchiladas verdes or green enchiladas; tacos al pastor, which is like marinated pork; seafood; and black beans,” she acknowledged. “A lot of people also like the horchata, which is like rice milk.”

Aguilar said she has stayed away from certain dishes that may be too exotic for customers. “It tastes good, but if they know what it is, it’s like they get an image in their head and can’t eat it.”

But most of the modifications to Americanize the food aren’t that extreme. “Our Hispanic customers will notice some of the things,” she explained. “We don’t use much ground beef in Mexico. It’s shredded meat or cheeses and chicken. So those are some small things that are different.”

Asked what she has enjoyed most about her 20 years in the area, Aguilar said “the clients, who have grown so much.” That sentiment was reiterated by Veronica Ramos, an assistant manager.

“We have a lot of customers who came here with their kids, and now their kids are married and they bring their kids,” said Ramos, who has worked at Plaza Garibaldi several times, including nine years in her current stint.

Aguilar wants to reward those customers in celebration of the 20th anniversary. For a previous business anniversary, Aguilar selected a married couple who met at Plaza Garibaldi and sent them on a trip to Aruba. For this milestone, she may send the lucky winners to Mexico’s Riviera Maya, which is known for its white-sand beaches. She also plans to give away gift certificates during a weekend party at the restaurant, located at 7917 Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie.

Customers can stay tuned on the details of that giveaway and the party date, tentatively set for mid-July, by visiting “Plaza Garibaldi Inc.” on Facebook. As the Spanish proverb goes, “The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current.” So if you don’t go, you can’t win.

Aguilar hopes to test her own fortune by expanding her business sometime in the near future. Until then, she will continue to humbly thank customers for their support.

“Times flies,” she said, reflecting on the last 20 years. “We’ve had new customers and existing customers.” Then, she smiled. “I can’t complain.”

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