Cleveland’s Barrio Nears Opening of First Location in Columbus
Cleveland-based taco joint Barrio will soon be opening its first location in Columbus.
Barrio’s 10th location overall, the new Columbus spot is taking over the former home of Winking Lizard, 1416 W. Fifth Ave. in Fifth by Northwest.
“We’ve been wanting to come to Columbus for awhile,” says Partner Jason Beudert.
While it’s technically their first location in Central Ohio, Beudert finds there’s already some name recognition for the brand locally. The two cities see a lot of crossover with fans and familiarity in both locations.
Since the build-your-own taco operation opened in 2012, Barrio has added five more locations in Cleveland, and one each in Michigan, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Fifth by Northwest is likely the first of more Barrios to come in Columbus.
“We want to do this right first and then we want to be aggressive in Central Ohio,” Beudert says.
When Barrio opens in the coming weeks, it will offer a plethora of build-your-own taco options, along with the classic accompaniments – chips and salsa, guacamole or queso (or all three).
Diners can build their culinary masterpieces on the traditional corn or flour tortilla, opt for decadence like the Stoner (flour soft + corn hard + queso + chorizo), or skip the hand-held vehicle altogether with cilantro-lime or cauliflower-pineapple rice.
In the protein department, there’s everything from Coca-Cola Marinated Steak, to Spice-Rubbed Chicken and Thick-Cut Bacon. There’s also Jalapeño Lime Shrimp, Pan-Seared Portobellos and Thai Chili Tofu.
The menu indicates a number of dietary and allergen concerns – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.- to help guide diners through the process.
“Not only do you get to customize your taco, but you get to focus on what your individual preferences might be,” says Executive Chef Alex Johnson.
If it’s all too much to DIY, the menu of El Jefe’s Selecciones offers some taco guidance with pre-made combos. Additionally, a rotating menu of specials will add even more options. Johnson says the menu is designed to be inclusive. They want to give everyone something to look forward to.
Naturally there will be Mexican beers and margaritas to wash it all down. The beer list will get some help from a rotating selection of local and Ohio drafts. Options again reign supreme in the margarita department, with at least a dozen flavors to choose from.
Within the first few weeks of opening, Barrio also plans to add brunch service. The menu features dishes like the BBT Taco – bacon, fried maple Brussels sprouts, over-easy egg, corn salsa, queso fresco and hollandaise and the Avocado Tostada – a fried tortilla topped with guacamole spread, crumbled bacon, queso fresco, corn salsa, over-easy egg, tajin and chipotle crema.
As with all of Barrio’s other locations, a Day of the Dead theme is heavily featured in the decor. The Columbus location even sees a few well-loved locals get some wall space in Day of the Dead style, with images of Brutus and former Director of the Ohio Department of Public Health, Amy Acton.
Ohio-based artist Eileen Dorsey is responsible for the interior murals, while local muralist Carlos Roa created the Frida Kahlo that goes vertical on the outside of the building. Operating Partner Sarah Ludwig says it has already been a popular spot for passersby to stop and snap photos.
To the build-your-own taco crowd in Columbus, the Barrio concept might seem familiar. Barrio and Condado have some documented history, lawsuits included. However, when asked how Barrio differentiates itself, Beudert says, “Replication is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Beudert says they are more focused on being a part of the surrounding community and joining Columbus’ dynamic food scene.
Customers will find a few differences that are good news for their stomachs and their wallets. Barrio serves up free chips & salsa, tacos start at $3 and the Monday-to-Friday 4-6 p.m. happy hour that includes $1 off tacos and half-off margaritas extends across the entire restaurant.
Opening during the middle of a pandemic, Barrio has faced some additional hurdles, which they’ve addressed with a motto of “Safety first, tacos second.”
The restaurant is taking precautions like adding plexiglass dividers between tables and bar seats, capping groups at eight patrons and installing foot handles on doors. Ludwig says they have also added a number of COVID-focused trainings for staff, with the restaurant planning to employ about 100 people.
When Barrio first opens, the experience will be solely dine-in, but Beudert says they’ll add carryout soon after. Aiming for an early September opening, Barrio’s hours will be 4 – 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, visit barrio-tacos.com.
All photos by Susan Post