Piling up the toppings at Barrio Tacos might sound tempting but can be risky, chef Alex Johnson said.
“You’ve got to keep it simple,” Johnson said. “The flavors can be overwhelming if you try too many.”
The Cleveland-based taco chain, which opened its first central Ohio location Wednesday at 1416 W. Fifth Ave. on the Northwest Side, offers combinations so numerous they could very well test the skills of a NASA scientist.
“We’re the home of the build-your-own taco,” co-owner Jason Beudert said. “Let people choose what they want. It’s a pretty cool system.”
Barrio, which means neighborhood in Spanish, seeks to whet the palate with protein options such as Coca-Cola-marinated steak, spice-rubbed chicken, braised short rib and jalapeno lime shrimp.
Vegetarians and vegans have plenty of choices, including flash-fried Thai chili tofu, pan-seared portobellos and beer-braised black beans.
“We’ve made it accessible to everyone,” Johnson said. “You can do almost anything.”
Fish tacos are nothing new, but at Barrio there’s a rotating selection, including grilled mahi-mahi through the end of September.
The list offers the usual toppings pico de gallo and less common, such as Western Reserve smoked cheddar, plus salsas and sauces ranging from mild to the Carolina Reaper, which will test the heartiest spice connoisseur.
“That’s spicy,” Johnson said. “It’s not for amateurs.”
Aside from tacos, which start at $3, Barrio also specializes in bowls, which start at $6. There are pre-designed tacos and bowls, plus chips and several salsa, queso and guacamole options.
“At Barrio, we love cooking with fresh ingredients,” Beudert said. “It’s all things people love.”
Barrio takes over the former Winking Lizard Tavern spot. The interior features Day of the Dead murals and safely distanced tables, while the spacious patio has a fire pit and ample seating. The entire space seats 120 with COVID-19 restrictions in place, Beudert said.
Barrio Tacos was founded in 2012, with the Columbus store being the 10th overall. Other restaurants are in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Hampshire.
For the time being, the focus is on dine-in customers, with no carryout or delivery available. A brunch menu also is in the offing.
“We want to do this location right,” Beudert said. “We want to be very aggressive in central Ohio.”
Hours are 4 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, 614-665-6690.
LemonShark Poke & Makai Grill is taking a bite of the Easton Town Center restaurant scene.
A late fall opening is planned for the restaurant with a Hawaiian theme, which will offer sustainably sourced sushi-grade fish for the poke meals and authentic hibachi-style meats, seafood and vegetables.
The full-service restaurant, part of a chain founded in Southern California, will feature Makai’s interactive grilled tasting menu to complement the poké bowls, which generally offer marinated seafood, sticky rice, vegetables and sauces.
The other part of the equation includes foods grilled in an open kitchen. Guests with tableside grills will have the option of cooking their own food.
Coastal Local Seafood opened Friday in the spot formerly occupied by the Fish Guys at the North Market’s Downtown location.
A retail spot at North Market Bridge Park is expected to open a few weeks.
Both are operated by Ian Holmes.
Dispatch restaurant reporter Gary Seman Jr. can be reached at [email protected]