Barrio in Saint Paul and Minneapolis

We’ve been to the Saint Paul location of Barrio, next to the Bulldog on Mears Park and the Nicollet Avenue location of Barrio a handful of times in the past few years since they opened.  There has been a long lull since our last visit, and we made up for it recently by making it to both locations in one week.  

We had a heavy snack / sort-of supper at the Saint Paul Barrio location the other night after attending the 25th Anniversary Party at Summit Brewery.

This meal reminded me that I love the corn chowder with roasted poblano peppers and queso fresco at Barrio, and I sure do wish that one single quesadilla, taco or enchilada on their menu was made without meat.  With the first trip to Barrio in a long time taking place over the dinner hour behind me, I realized that the winning reason for a vegetarian to visit Barrio is for a snack and a drink.  Thankfully, I had the opportunity to do just that at the Nicollet Mall location a few days later.

Bjorn and I planned to meet at the downtown Minneapolis Barrio location after work the other night to enjoy a summer’s end, last hurrah patio happy hour.  I arrived before him and ordered a Caesar Chavez, Barrio’s “Champion Margarita” made with Traditional Reposado tequila and served in a heavy tumbler on the rocks with ice and a big wedge of orange and lime–very refreshing.

During both September 2012 Barrio visits, we’ve delved into Queso Fundido.  It is a gooey-melty cheesy extravagance served hot in an oven-proof dish along with a basket of warm tortillas.  Fortunately, the rich Fundido is not served in an over-abundant portion if you share it among a few people.  The tortillas are soft, fresh and arrive warm with zig-zag char marks, having kissed the grill before being tucked into a woven basket and hurried to the table.

We are used to the ubiquitous “Chips and Salsa” served for free or cheap at Mexican restaurants.  Chips and Salsa are great for staving off hunger but can be accidentally filling and fairly ho-hum if the salsa lacks character or the chips aren’t fresh.  At Barrio, the chips are house made and are a little on the too-salty side–chug your water, not your cocktail…  Their redemption is that they are served with an assortment of 3 house-made salsas, ranging from hot to moderately hot, and a salsa verde which proved to be interesting, plenty kicky and fun to eat.

In both the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Barrio locations, the atmosphere is something to behold:  Mexican wrestling masks, a towering wall of tequila bottles, glittery graffiti-style paintings adorning the walls, candelabras drenched in dripping candle wax and a shining welded-metal toro presiding over it all…Barrio means neighbourhood, this ‘hood is relaxed and lighthearted, yet hip, with a funky edge.  

And, it sure is a great place for a snack.

One thought on “Barrio in Saint Paul and Minneapolis

  1. The vibe of barrio is fun and funky, evident in the giant silver bull statue in the back, the Luche Libre masks on the wall, and the deep red decor. My one problem was how loud the music was playing. It was, by no means, conducive to have a conversation of any sort.If you like tequila, this is THE place to go. SO many different kinds and in price ranges for all. The wine selection is decent and the beer is moderately priced. For something a little different, try one of the specialty beer drinks like the El Toro which is like a limey spicy michelada, hold the tomato. We ordered a several dishes so we could try a little from each section of the menu. The Oaxaca Style Baby Back Ribs with sauteed plantains. The ribs had a nice amount of heat, but not too much to be overwhelming. The plantains were the real stand out in this dish, with a nice crust on the outside and an excellent pop of spice that complements the delightful creamy texture the plantain provides. The sugarcane shrimp were an unfortunate disappointment. It is not that they were bad, there was just nothing that stood out about them.The highlight of the meal was by far the Carnitas Taco. It smacked me in the face and transported me to my favorite taco spot in Texas. The pork was succulent but at the same time had a nice char and excellent flavor. The tortillas were corn, as they should be. The taco was topped with an enticing serrano chili salsa, cilantro, and onions. I am certain I could spend the rest of my life eating this taco and that is it!

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