The Taste Food Tour :: Barrio Apr08

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The Taste Food Tour :: Barrio

After my maiden journey to Barrio a few years ago, I can confidently guarantee that there is such a thing as love at first sight.

If you know me at all, you know that my love for the funky Madison Avenue create-your-own taco joint borders more on obsession. Not a “Fatal Attraction” one by any means. More like one where, when I recently ordered a custom Lakewood subway print for our home, I made sure one of lines read: “Barrio Tacos.” That kind of obsession.

It’s a significant one. I went through a phase in my earlier adulthood where I suddenly decided I hated tacos. Wouldn’t eat them. Turned my nose up at them. A trip to Barrio, 15527 Madison Avenue, with friends a few years ago provided long-overdue, instantaneous reformation. And for that, I’m a better-fed person, not to mention Barrio-addicted.

If I tried to tell you what my favorite choices at Barrio were, I’d have to write a blog series instead of one simple post. Here’s a short run-down on what to try, starting with appetizers:

Queso. From the standing menu, you can’t go wrong with the simple “Stoner” variety, which includes rice along with the rich, melty, cheesy deliciousness. It makes a great vehicle for dipping chips than cheese alone. For those more adventurous, try one of the monthly queso specials, which have included such seasonal favorites as Buffalo chicken, green bean casserole and spinach & artichoke dip varieties.

Guac. Works like the queso – a few constants (I particularly like the Tuscan with goat cheese, basil, pine nuts and a balsamic drizzle, and the Pineapple with its namesake fruit, pickled red onion and a chipotle-honey sauce drizzle) augmented by a monthly special.

If you can’t decide between guac or queso or multiple kinds of one or the other, no worries – Barrio offers a sampler called “Tres Amigos” that allows you to pick any combo of guac, queso and amazing house-made salsas. All come with a basket of tortilla chips in addition to your complimentary basket and a side of red salsa.

Tacos. Let’s get to the real reason people wait sometimes as much as 90 minutes for table at this always-hopping spot. Tacos, tacos, tacos. If you like to order from a predetermined menu, check out the list of “El Jefe’s Selecciones.” Easy ordering. Mark the quantity next to the one (or ones) that catch your eye, and you’re done. No debating toppings, shells, filling.

Two of my Barrio Hall of Famers are on this list: the Dirty Taco – a soft shell filled with melty queso, rice, cilantro and onions and black beans with the hot and spicy “dirty” sauce. I also love the Curd Ferguson – sweet and zesty combination of thai chile tofu, jicama apple slaw, queso fresco, and pineapple and red salsas served in a hard-and-soft-shell combo.

If you like experimenting and pondering taste combinations, the “Build Your Own Tacos” checklist is for you. Choose a variety of shells (my favorite upgrade is the queso-and-guac-filled “Green Goddess”: the filling layered between a hard and soft shell), one filling (chicken and tofu are my faves), cheese, toppings (I’m a fan of the red cabbage and jicama slaw), and salsas/sauces (too many to list here, but experiment away!).

Careful, though. Don’t get too crazy. Too many toppings and sauces leave you with a soggy (but still tasty) taco. I speak from experience.

Don’t forget the extensive drink list, ranging from the house margarita (by the pitcher, if you so choose), creative whiskey drinks and a large beer list. And, on weekends, Barrio also offers brunch options from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I recently tried the Chicken-and-Waffle taco with fried chicken strips, collard greens, bacon and a bourbon-cinnamon-infused maple glaze. Not your standard brunch fare – but excellent!

In GOOD FOOD and community,

Robin