March 6, 2012


Yaaaaaaay! Barrio is opeeeeen-ah!

As soon as I heard food cart masters Soupcon and El Sancho were opening up a tapas place in the old Mars Bistro location, I was in. I was getting ready for this to be my new favorite go-to happy hour spot. With a cozy atmosphere, delicious fruity sangria and $4 tapas. These past 2 weeks I have daydreamed daily (hourly?) about my trip to Spain last year, reliving the happy wine-filled times, the amazing food and the late night dinner/party/bigcity/smalltown goodtimes I had there. I was ready to pretend I was back in Spain, yet with the bonus convenience of a 5 minute drive downtown. Done, done and done.

Well, it was good, but not great. And I feel a little guilty saying that, but no one reads this blog anyway so I don't think these few sentences will do Barrio any harm while they perfect this vision we share of a tapa utopia -- food cart dreamers and Spain groupie.

$5 Sangria? Great! But the serving size was small. Ok ok, if you make it with a little liquor in it then a 6 ounce serving in a wine glass will pack a punch, but come on, it was so delicious! Just fill the glass a little more than halfway so it actually looks like I'm getting a drink and not stealing a leftover beverage off the table next to me that just got vacated. (And now I feel like a cheap alcoholic). It had a slight spice to it but not too sweet and only had 1 perfect little 1/4-moon orange slice in it, which was also just right because while I do love fruit the other diners don't need to see me deep tonging my glass trying to fish it out.

Atmosphere? Great! I love the higher tables, although you'll never catch Americans standing in a tapas bar, it reminded me that not all people are lazy fuckers and some will actually stand at their table while they down a drink and a quick tapa. Actually, now that I think of it, not many Spaniards stood and ate, but some did -- the ones who were too cool to spend all their time at one place so they were always just passing through on their way to the next awesome little hole in the wall. Big mirrors on one wall, bar seating facing the street, nice big windows for good lighting, zesty music and way over-staffed with cute bohemian hipster chicks. All good things.

Food. Presentation was excellent. Cute little dishes and cute little servings with nice bright colors. Flavors? Getting there. The food seemed a little amateurish in its complexity, like the sound of it on the menu was better than what I actually got in my mouth. It seemed one-dimensional and a little bland but too strong on the garlic and onions.

Couple things of promise to note: a few good veggie options including $4 Patatas Bravas (which were ok, but nothing like the creamy-crispy-hot heaven on a toothpick I'd had in Spain). Some kind of fava plantain sandwich (which was $7 so I skipped it, but it sounded good). $4 Hummus. Now, this one sounded good, "preserved lemon hummus", but it was just hummus and a few crusty pieces of grilled bread and I have that exact meal in my fridge right now at home... cute serving dish but nothing special as far as the flavors went. Charcoal grilled bread was a nice touch I suppose but I am so SICK of ordering unispired hummus apps because that's the only veggie option on the menu...

$4 Calamari with bacon and peas. That was almost yummy except the bacon seemed to enhance the fishiness of the seafood and I just wasn't a huge fan.
$4 tamarind brisket on knoedel. That was pretty good and was a pretty good sized portion to share.
$11 Veggie Paella with a small green salad. Cute serving, pretty tasty and like a mini version of the $50 monstrosity they called a 2-person serving in Spain. I really really appreciated them having a veggie option, but I really missed the seafood.

Now that I've seen it during their first week open, I can't wait to see what else they'll do with the place! Pinchos? Happy Hour? more Sangria? seasonal tapas? Pinchos? It didn't live up to my hopes and dreams but I'm going to have to say Spain set the bar pretty damn high. So, next time expectations will be at a reasonable level and I will probably love it. Can't wait to try it again.
I'm just stoked to see some of my favorite food cart dudes trying their skills in a new realm, I hope they're having a ton of fun.