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Barbacoa Mexican Fusion & Bar Opening Soon in University District

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Barbacoa Mexican Fusion & Bar Opening Soon in University District
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  • Sumo

Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes are happening in the University District.

Local restauranteurs Ron Criswell, TJ Wellman, Xue Qin Chen, and Xue Gong Chen (Pokébros, Typhoon) are bringing the newest change to the neighborhood, with Barbacoa Mexican Fusion and Bar. The new restaurant has taken over the Rippers Roadstand at 2036 N. High St., and will celebrate a grand opening next week.

“With the changes in campus — I mean, it’s amazing, campus is now 90 percent corporate,” Criswell says, “and one of our principal members, Xue Gong, he is constantly looking for great opportunities. When he saw this and realized the makeover that has been happening on campus, he just felt the time was right for this type of restaurant.”

With fast-casual service, Barbacoa will offer a menu of tacos, wraps and bowls that fuse the ingredients of traditionally Mexican dishes with those found at poké establishments. Each item starts with sticky rice and edamame, and from there guests can add spicy ahi tuna, tofu, Korean bulgogi, barbacoa, pork belly, firecracker shrimp, or grilled cod.

Dishes can be topped with any of their house-made sauces, which range from sweet soy to Sriracha aioli. And on the side, guests can get their “Dragon Eggs,” which are halved avocados stuffed with spicy tuna, then panko-crusted and fried; sweet potato fries; nachos; or a roasted Sriracha-garlic-honey cauliflower.

Rather than offering a full bar, the house-made margaritas will be Barbacoa’s specialty, along with a house sangria that changes with the seasons, from white to red, to peach, to blackberry.

Criswell says the atmosphere reflects a “comfortable, bodega-style restaurant,” featuring exposed brick, wood floors and tables, red metal chairs, and an array of warm colors including orange, brown, red and gray.

To start, Barbacoa will be open until 1 a.m., until they obtain their 2:30 a.m. permit. They’ll have a soft opening next Monday, August 13, before celebrating an official grand opening later that week.

“We’d like to time it so we get in before the kids start coming back, so the kids and their parents, when they’re out looking for a bite to eat, can see the uniqueness of what we do as opposed to Wendy’s and Chipotle and Chik-Fil-A and Panda Express,” says Criswell. “We’re definitely more of an independent style.”

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