By Lynda Wheatley | July 17, 2021
The Cleveland-based restaurant chain Barrio Tacos recently opened its doors to its first northern Michigan location, and our hopes were high. With 10+ established spots in Ohio and New Hampshire, one in our own East Lansing, and a menu based almost entirely on tacos, the promise of a Traverse City-based Barrio was only boosted by its Build Your Own Taco insouciance, confident specialty taco menu, forgiving late-night hours, and — a rare and most welcome phenomenon in local restaurants these days — enough seating (116 standing, 140 standing) to preclude a hefty wait time almost anytime.
For a moment, that perceived promise seemed foolish; our server, though exceptionally well-versed in his “how this works” delivery, seemed unsure when asked any off-script question. Our first order, the "semi-soft with mild flavor” Queso Fresco, came to the table cool yet somehow watery. Blame the first-week jitters; the tacos that followed redeemed all.
The Bomba De Tocino, a taco with thick-cut bacon, chihuahua, lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro-lime aioli, pickled jalapeños, was every bit the explosion of flavor we expected. More gentle in its approach to tastebud awakening but delicious nevertheless was the El Vegano, featuring pan-seared portobellos, caramelized onions and poblanos, pico de gallo, corn salsa, and salsa verde. Our favorite, however, was the El Jefe Loco, in which spice-rubbed chicken, fresco, smoked cheddar, pico de gallo, corn salsa, chipotle honey bbq, and salsa Roja are folded inside Barrio's fantastically tasty "Stoner Shell" (flour and corn taco shell with chorizo and queso). Not only will we give the place another go, we’re counting the days. Find Barrio Tacos at 305 West Front St., in the new 4Front Credit Union headquarters building. barrio–tacos.com, (231) 421-1855