Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: Fajitas Restaurant & Bar

This is the second installment in my series about people and businesses in my neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens.

Unlike Leo and Eddie's Hairstyling and Barbering, which were here before my wife and I arrived in July 2007, Fajitas Sunrise Restaurant & Bar is a newcomer to the neighborhood. Twenty-one months ago an Italian restaurant occupied the space at 59-24 Myrtle Avenue and we enjoyed eating there. The food and service were always good but there never seemed to be many customers and we were disappointed when it closed down.

A few months later we started seeing activity in the building as it was being remolded. When Fajitas Sunrise Restaurant & Bar opened about a year ago we were some of the first customers. Because we have been happy and satisfied customers from the very beginning we have watched Fajitas Sunrise mature. We have tasted the menu as it has broadened. We have seen the addition of a full bar (the sangria is to die for). We have witnessed about three or four different menu formats. At times I have felt like I have been watching a neighborhood child grow into adolescence.

One of the owners and chef is Francisco Cruz (pictured third down). You will not see a lot of Francisco because he spends most of his time in the kitchen.
The manager and Bartender is Juan Manuel Gracia (pictured top and second), a constant smiling face behind the colorful and festive full service bar. I have not yet learned the names of all the wait staff and some have already come and gone, but the last time I was in, Alberto (left in the picture bottom left), Alejandra (bottom right) and Claudio (right in the picture bottom left) were on duty.

When I asked Juan what he liked most about the neighborhood he said that he liked the fact that Ridgewood was a quiet area and that the people in the neighborhood are polite and friendly. (Obviously he was thinking of my wife and I when he said that.)

How does he sum up his business philosophy? “I try to be nice and please the customer” he say. I think he succeeds.

If you have not yet eaten at Fajitas Sunrise, Juan wants you to come in and let him know how you like it.

It seems that the current recession has affected lunch traffic the most as well as weekday traffic but the weekends are still brisk and lively. Perhaps the live Mariachi Band on the weekends helps. Currently there is a happy hour
Monday to Friday 4-7 PM at the bar only and on Wednesdays you can
get tequila shots for $3 from 6-9 PM.

Every table receives a basket of Nacho’s with homemade chunky salsa and water service without having to ask. Before bringing a second basket of nachos the wait staff will ask if you want more.

My wife’s favorite dishes are the Ceviche de CamarĂ³n appetizer (Shrimp Ceviche in orange and lime juice, tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado and spices, $8.00) and Pollo Jalisco (Chicken cutlet in white wine, lime sauce, white rice and salad, $11.00). Her second most favorite is the Pollo Al Mojo de Ajo (Chicken cutlet in garlic sauce, Mexican rice and Beans, $11.00). The Chicken dishes are perhaps some of the healthiest at Fajitas Sunrise because they use only fresh chicken and therefore do not need to add oil when cooking it.

I too like the Ceviche de CamarĂ³n as well as the Aquacate Relleno appetizer (Half avocado stuffed with cooked shrimp and spice, $7.00). I also like the Pollo Jalisco and Pollo Al Mojo de Ajo as well as the Pescado Al Mojo de Ajo (Fish in garlic sauce served with Mexican rice and salad, $15.00) and the Burritos (two for $11.00), Combo Sunrise (Shredded beef burrito, shredded chicken enchilada, and ground beef taco, $11.00). The portions are so
generous, and we are not big eaters, so we rarely have room left for desert,
but when we do we usually split some Flan ($4.50), Alaska Fried Ice Cream ($5.00) or Tres Leches ($4.50).

Fajitas Sunrise is no fast food or Tex-Mex eatery. At Fajitas Sunrise cheese is a garnish artistically complimenting well presented meals, not a main course. Spices and flavorings are subtle and varied, not overwhelmed by cheese or tomatoes. The atmosphere is casual but with a touch of elegance. The wait staff is friendly, courteous and will do their best to explain the menu.

Juan estimates that about 80% of his customers are not Hispanic but during one recent visit it seemed that my wife and I were the only non-Hispanics in the house, and we loved it. We felt like we had been transported to Mexico and were being given the royal welcome. At other times the clientele has been more mixed, just like the Ridgewood neighborhood we live in.

For other customer reviews, visit yelp and urbanspoon.

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