Barrio Café’s brand of Mexican food is the central-southern, give-your-mouth-a-red-chile-burn, hearty stuff that’s spiced up by local culinary legend Silvana Salcido Esparza with some French influences for good measure. Esparza’s chips and dip are too precious to merely dole out as a precursor to the meal; instead, diners enjoy crust French bread with an olive tapenade accompaniment. The menu features salads, tacos, tortas, enchiladas, pan-seared fish, and bone-in meats, and highlights include the acclaimed Cochinita Pibil, pork marinated in achiote and sour orange, wrapped in a banana leaf and slow roasted overnight, and topped with pickled red onion and Yucatan-style pico de gallo, and Filete Mignon de mi Tita, topped with a crab and queso de cabra mélange. You’ll have a hard time choosing a favorite dish, let alone finding a flaw in any of plates that grace your table. So don’t even bother; simply relish the spread in front of you.
Phoenix’s resident local legend Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza continues her streak of helming successful Mexican restaurants at Barrio Urbano in North-Central Phoenix. Here, breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes are treated with bold, regional Mexican culinary technique that is synonymous with Esparza. Breakfast is characterized its savory-leaning plates -- try the Barrio Revueltos, an egg-white scramble with sautéed spinach, onion, Schreiner’s longaniza sausage, and toast -- but you can also get your sweet fill without the caloric guilt by ordering freshly cut fruit of the day served over cottage cheese and topped with local honey, raw sunflower seeds, golden raisins, pecans, and house-made granola. The nighttime menu offers a dizzying array of enchiladas, quesadillas, and burritos with kaleidoscopic combinations of braised meats, salsas, and cheeses, which become seemingly more dizzying after a couple of bourbon Pretty Pablos (whiskey sours) or Jack Swillins (gimlets). The restaurant’s motto is “Conserve water, drink tequila,” which should give you a pretty good indication of the depth and breadth of the cocktail program.
While you won’t find tacos on the menu like at the original Barrio Café, you can still order some of its iconic dishes at this more elegant Central City outpost, like Chile Nogales, stuffed with apples and walnuts, drizzled with a crema sauce, and topped with pomegranate. You should, of course, pair it with a glass from the exclusively Mexican wine list. Don’t get too accustomed to the current food menu, though: beloved Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza puts together new dishes regularly to keep things fresh, a perfect excuse to become a regular and try all of her latest creations.