Review of Barrio Cafe in Phoenix, Arizona
Barrio Cafe - What I Liked
- Not your typical tacos and tamales
- Freshly made selections
- Appetizing presentation -- the food is pretty!
- Small cafe with nice, eclectic vibe
Barrio Cafe - Be Aware
- Pricey food and drink
- Crowded and noisy during peak times
- Reservations are not accepted
- Nothing else in the neighborhood
Pescado del Mar at Barrio Cafe © Judy Hedding
Barrio Cafe - The Mood
The Barrio Cafe has developed a following and a reputation. It's a little place in a neighborhood you might otherwise avoid. People line up to wait their turn to sample Chef Silvana's creations that she adapted from her grandmother's recipes in Mexico.
Barrio Cafe - The Damages
Dining at Barrio Cafe is not cheap. Appetizers start at $10, soup is $8, and entrees range from $17 to $26. There are tortas (sandwiches) and tacos ranging from $10 to $15. Desserts are $10 or $11 each but can be shared. Margaritas are available for between $8 and $11.
My Review of Barrio Cafe
Barrio Cafe is often ranked as one of the best -- if not the best -- Mexican restaurants in town. People line up inside and outside this small restaurant to enjoy Chef/Owner Silvana Salcido Esparza's creations that she derived from the teachings of her mother and grandmother in Mexico. In 2013 it was featured on the popular Food Network TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
You won't find taco and tamale combination plates here, and the question "red or green?" has no place in a restaurant serving true regional fare from southern Mexico. No dishes of salsa on the tables or hot sauce in squeeze bottles here. These original recipes reflect a love of cuisine, careful preparation, lovely presentation and pride in a local one-of-a-kind business located in a neighborhood where the owner lives.
Crepas de Cajeta at Barrio Cafe © Judy Hedding
The guacamole with pomegranate seeds is appealing and tasty, served with thick, fresh, and crisp tortilla chips. It is enjoyable to watch it being prepared tableside (at dinner only). I can highly recommend the Quesadilla de Langosta Borracho, a garlicky lobster appetizer, and the Pescado del Mar, pictured above. The Cochinita Pibil (12 hour slow roasted pork) is probably the house specialty. I tried two desserts. Both the Crepas de Cajeta, warm goat’s milk caramel topped crepes served with ice cream (pictured here), and the Churros Rellenos de Cajeta de Cabra, goat’s milk caramel stuffed fritters served with ice cream, were delicious. Dessert prices are high, but they are suitable for sharing. The Lowrider Margarita ($12) was offered as the house specialty, but it missed the mark for me.
There's a lot of hype associated with Barrio Cafe. While I enjoy
the flavors and originality of the menu and I don't miss the refried
beans, I find it difficult to enjoy a meal when I can't talk to the
people at my table because of the noise, or when I can't move my chair
because of the crowd. When I dropped by for an early lunch one day, I
was much happier with the diminished "excitement" than on a
previous visit on a Tuesday evening. I am pleased to be able to say
that I have been to Barrio Cafe, and if I'm going to spend that kind
of money on a meal, I am happy to support a local entrepreneur who has
turned her love of Mexico, family and food into a successful business.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights there is live entertainment. Barrio Cafe is open for lunch and dinner five days per week. Dinner only on Saturdays. Brunch and dinner on Sundays. Barrio Cafe is closed on Mondays.
Where to Find Barrio Cafe:
2814 N. 16th Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85006
Date of review: January 2009.
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.
As is common in the industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary meal for the purpose of the review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.