Legion holds extra meaning for new restaurant owners, brings sit-down “big city” experience to Montgomery

By: 
Jarrod Schoenecker

Jarrod Schoenecker photo

Husband and wife team Chef Daniel Garza (left) and now business partner Cara Sutton stand outside of the American Legion in Montgomery and home of their new restaurant, Taco Terco, which will open in January 2024. For them, the Legion holds a special meaning for this collaboration.

    The American Legion in Montgomery has had a banner out front for a few weeks now advertising a new restaurant coming called Taco Terco. It is a partnership between the Legion and Taco Terco’s owners, Chef Daniel Garza and his wife Cara Sutton. The restaurant is set to open in the first part of January 2024.
    Garza’s name may sound familiar to you, as he was the majority owner and chef for Taco Bien at the Lonsdale American Legion until recent months. The menu and cuisine that Garza created at Taco Bien, that many have come to love, will not be the same menu at the new Taco Terco. However, there will be similar appeal and some new additions that they think you’ll really enjoy.
    Garza’s on-the-job training has him always learned new things. “To me, everyday in the kitchen is school. There is always something to learn,” says Garza.
    Chef Garza’s story is one of those “American Dream” stories. He was living in Monterrey, Mexico, which is across the border south of San Antonio, Texas. “It was getting bad down there with the cartels and my mother asked for me to come live with her,” said Garza. His mother and step-father lived in Philadelphia at the time. Garza obliged and left behind a seven years of college where he was studying to be a doctor as a trauma specialist.
    When Garza arrived in the United States in 2006, he did not know English. “My first job was doing dishes at a diner,” said Garza. He says it was a job that he could do without being able to speak English. He continued, “It took me about six months before I was able to hold a conversation with someone.”
    Within a year of living in Philadelphia, he moved to the Twin Cities with a sibling already living here. On one of the first days in Minnesota, a friend of his took him out to a local Mexican restaurant in Eagan.
    “The restaurant was dead. There was only us and these couple of girls,” said Garza. Sutton was one of those girls and caught his eye. “I’m really shy by nature so I needed some Tequila to get up the nerve to approach her but, by the time I did, she had already left,” said Garza.
    Garza figured he would never see Sutton again but, at some point, their paths crossed again at that same restaurant. This time Garza asked for her number.
    For their first date, Garza offered to cook for her. “He made me chicken cordon bleu from scratch. He greeted me with flowers and chocolate. I was like, ‘If this is the first date, then sign me up!’,” said Sutton. “I was hooked.”
    They dated and became engaged. Sutton taught Garza English. In 2008, Garza moved back to Philadelphia to become a chef, learning in a kitchen and working 16-18 hour days. The rigorous schedule and distance caused the couple to depart ways amicably.
    During his time back in Philadelphia, near his mother and stepfather, he made many fond memories. “My father, well, step-father but he is father to me, was a Marine. He loved the Marines too. We used to sit out on the porch and he would tell me stories,” said Garza with tears in his eyes. Garza lost his father to pancreatic cancer about two years ago. “I wish he was here to see me in my own restaurant today,” Garza continued. “I miss those times with him on the porch.”
    Garza moved back to Minnesota in 2017. He never expected to see Sutton on his move back to Minnesota. On a very random day taking a walk, he saw Sutton from a distance and they talked. “What are the chances that I would see her at that exact time and that she would be single still,” said Garza. They became reacquainted, got back together as a couple and eventually married.
    Both Sutton and Garza love the small communities and American Legions. Sutton says, “Before I met Daniel, I didn’t even know the public could go into a Legion. I thought it was something only for Veterans or military.”
    Garza’s step-father served in the Vietnam War. “The things they endured — it’s crazy. I have a lot of respect for them. That’s why the Legion holds a special place in my heart, why I want to be here,” said Garza.
    They say they have no intentions of moving out of the Legion. “It’s been a great partnership here at the Legion and in the town. We really like the idea of partnering with them. We like that model. We want to make Legions popular again,” said Garza. “We don’t want to leave. We want to be a part of the community. The focus is on being a part of the community and family,” said Sutton.
    Sutton quite her job in a business management position to be fully invested in the restaurant with Garza. “I whole-heartedly believe Daniel’s passion and experience to pursue this as a family,” said Sutton.
    The couple, who lives in Lonsdale, is renting the kitchen from the Legion. The Legion will stop serving food except for banquets and special events. Taco Terco will also be available for catering events, and they say they are more than willing to work with the Legion if they need the space.
    The Legion has been busy cleaning up and painting the community room in preparation for the restaurant. Once the exchange happens, the Legion and the restaurant will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

The menu
    “I’ve spent a lot of time putting this menu together,” said Garza. “Everything is fresh and made from scratch. Everything is processed here.” Garza says that almost no inventory will be in the restaurant for more than three-to-four days because it is fresh. “You don’t have to go to a big city to have a quality meal,” said Garza.
    Taco Terco’s theme, “Authentic World Flavor,” rings true on their menu, and Garza says...To continue reading the full story, pick up the Dec. 28, 2023, edition of the Messenger. To not miss future news, subscribe online today!

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