After enjoying the tacos at Barrio at the Taste of Tremont earlier in the week, despite the last taco swimming from the downpour as we sat alone out in the open, as hundreds of people around us scampered in all directions to take cover. Half an inch of rain collected in our platter within 5 minutes. Bug still enjoyed the wet taco (that sounded awkward).
Conditions were much better on our first visit to Barrio -- low 70s (°F), dry, and windy. We don't normally select patio dining, but we invited Bear and Bear's dad to join us. With it being such a lovely day, dining outdoors in the shade couldn't have been more splendid.
Tacos are $3 each and made to your specification by selecting from printed checklist slips of paper available at each table. You choose:
1) the type of shell (flour, corn - hard or soft);
2) protein (various meats, fish, beans, or tofu);
3) numerous cold vegetables;
4) cheeses (queso fresco, manchego, chihuahua); and
5) an abundance of salsas and sauces.
Pre-set tacos are not offered except for the taco(s) of the day, which were $4 each on the day we went.
I ordered two tacos, one that I was positive I would enjoy and another was an experiment:
1) hard shell with chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco, and Barrio secret taco sauce ("mucho caliente")
2) soft shell corn tortilla with tofu (yes), lettuce, tomatoes, manchego, and guajillo sauce (tomatoes and dried guajillo peppers)
The order slip noted their chorizo is made at the restaurant. It was fantastic -- salty, smoky, spiced, and peppery -- and went well with the crisp lettuce, tomatoes, nutty hard shell, and salsa. There was a nice tickle to the sauce but by no means caliente.
The tofu taco, on the other hand, was a big miss. I don't know if it was the tofu, guajillo sauce, manchego, or the combination, but the sweet barbecue type sauce was unexpected and wasn't my thing. I'll try tofu again, but with more straightforward ingredients, especially if it is not served automatically with that sweet sauce.
Bug created two tacos:
1) flour tortilla with chorizo, lettuce, queso fresco, and chipotle crema
2) flour tortilla with pulled chicken, jicama with strawberries, manchego, and Barrio secret taco sauce
I can't think of an application where great tasting chorizo would taste awful. Perhaps dessert, then again I can't knock it if I haven't tried a serious effort. Tomato soup and grilled cheese cupcake was incomprehensible until I tried it at A Cookie and a Cupcake. The chipotle crema added a sultry smoky flavor to the smoky spiced sausage. I haven't decided which chorizo taco was better, mine or his.
The jicama and strawberries were an interesting blend to the pulled chicken taco. I had never knowingly had jicama before so I was looking forward to trying it. It has a texture of daikon with a subtle flavor. The strawberries didn't really contribute much.
BLT and Korean BBQ were the special tacos this evening. Both tacos were made with very thick cuts of pork belly. I love mayonnaise in many things, so I knew these were going to be nifty tacos as both were accompanied by different mayo based sauces. Adding a zestier oomph, the BLT taco was better than an actual BLT sandwich.
Marinated in Korean barbecue sauce prior to grilling imparted a slight sweetness to the pork, not cloying like many American barbecue sauces. Pickled vegetables mimicking kim chi provided a nice crunch and tartness. The creamy spicy mayo was fantastic binding all the flavors together.
Barrio was much better than we expected for being a new establishment during the heart of dinner rush on a Friday night sandwiched between two parties of 10 and 12 on the patio. I've had a lot worse tasting food and service at other restaurants with much fewer customers. I look forward to our next visit to Barrio.
806 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 999-7714