The absolute best meal we had in Phoenix, hands down, was our first one at the Barrio Café on the corner of Thomas and North 16th Streets. From the outside, Barrio looks like just another unpretentious neighborhood eatery, just our type of place. But appearances can be deceiving! Once inside, we quickly discovered why this establishment has earned the reputation of being one of the trendiest and most authentic Mexican restaurants in the area.
Though it was past lunchtime, the friendly spiky-haired waiter told us there would be a short wait and invited us to sit at what must be the smallest bar I’ve ever seen. My husband and I took two of the three seats and (rather boringly) ordered Mexican beer. We then proceeded to ogle the man in the third seat’s lunch, which was a work of art, with the various colors and texture on the plate effortlessly complementing each other. Perhaps feeling dismay that we hadn’t ordered one of the Barrio’s signature margaritas, an older man came behind the bar, went to work mixing, and presented me with a small glass of a seashell pink beverage. Though I don’t really care for tequila, I didn’t want to offend him so I took a sip. Muy delicioso! Called “Organica Margarita” it contains Tierras Organic Silver Tequila, and agave nectar, pomegranate, grapefruit, and fresh lime juices. When I return I’ll definitely order a whole one for myself.
Our entrees were wonderful. Mine was Suiza-a Mexican City-style enchilada with layers of chicken and cheese and a delicate creamy tomato sauce topped with crumbled chorizo and red onion. Neil got pork tacos with tangy pickled red onions which contrasted nicely with the sweet and smoky pork, giving your taste buds an unexpected little “zing”! But what really blew me away was the “Esquites” which I’ve sampled before in Dallas, as “street corn”. It was this amazing, tongue-pleasing combination of firm, yet extremely juicy, bright yellow corn kernels that were so sweet that each individual one literally exploded in my mouth. The corn was topped with crumbled cotija cheese and completed by a generous drizzle of chipotle cream sprinkled with cilantro and fresh lime juice. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven with each tiny bite and my eyes threatened to fill with tears as I spooned the last succulent morsel into my mouth, scraping the sides and bottom of the crystal goblet it was served in to make sure I didn’t leave a single crumb behind.
I am 99.9% sure that I could never make any of these dishes at home, making them the perfect vacation food. The two of us left with the mutual understanding that this restaurant was at the top of our all-time favorites list.
The second-best meal we had in Phoenix was at Joyride Taco House on Central Avenue. The food and drinks were fresh and tasty, the atmosphere upbeat, and the servers friendly and enthusiastic. For those of you on a budget, they have Happy Hour prices too!