Fair   60.0F  |  Forecast »

Barrio Tacos & Tequila in Birmingham

This snazzy restaurant may at first seem more parent friendly. But from yummy Mexican food to great non-alcoholic beverages, it's a great choice for the kids, too!

Mexican grub can be as easy to sell to kids as Italian. Most children will happily chow pizza and spaghetti or tacos and nachos. iCarly went one step further by creating spaghetti tacos – fusion cuisine, in the eyes of a teen.

But let's get back to the border – and Barrio Tacos & Tequila in Birmingham. This new spot, next to the Palladium 12, offers fresh and interesting Mexican cuisine. Granted, a glance at its Tex-Mex menu may at first seem almost inaccessible for parents, let alone kids. But don't worry. I'm here to demystify Barrio's fare and show you why it's prime family dining.

The ambience

Barrio is a tequila bar and restaurant, so I wouldn't recommend bringing the kids after 9 p.m. (no problem, right?). There are spacious, circular booths that my 4 year old navigated easily. We were comfortable without an inkling of feeling rushed.

Barrio Tacos & Tequila

The drinks

So yes: They do stock plenty of tequila, plus Mexican beer and most other spirits. But that wasn't at the top of my list, because there is a fascinating non-alcoholic beverage called agua fresca, or flavored water. Kids might like these, too, but the one I sampled has cucumber, jalapeno, lime, cilantro and mint. Agua fresca de pepino is refreshing with a perfect balance of spicy jalapeno and cool cucumber. The strawberry and watermelon versions are probably more kid friendly, unless your tyke's a pepper head.

The appetizers

Seems like every other parent I speak to swears by avocado. By extension, guacamole – avocado blended until smooth with lime, garlic, cilantro, and (sometimes) chilis – should be a slam-dunk.

And Barrio offers three choices: traditional, cucumber, and mango. Order carefully on the latter: There's habanero in the mango, too. When dining with the kids, I recommend the traditional, sans chilis – or cucumber, light on serranos, is milder choice, hand made to order. Like heat? There are two house made sauces on the table – red and green – so you can have some kick while sparing the kids.

Queso fundido is chihuahua cheese baked in a brick oven until golden brown and gooey. Served with flour tortillas, one queso is enough for a family of four to share before your main course. Chorizo verde has luscious chunks of Barrio's house-made chorizo and chunks of mildly spicy poblano peppers. From a dad who's always concerned with spice: Kids can enjoy this, but if you have any doubt, order the traditional, no worries.

The main menu

Essentially a grilled cheese, quesadillas are both comforting to kids and a little outside the norm. Barrio's version is filled with that same chihuahua. Two kids could share the large four-piece plate that comes with crema and fresh-made pico de gallo. For a nominal extra charge, you can add a protein, too. My kids gravitate toward chicken, which is grilled and gently spiced.

Still hungry, parents? Barrio's got a number of options that can be shared between two. Tacos are a good place to start. Each order includes three good-sized tacos. Fillings vary from mushroom to chicken to fish to beef, all prepared in-house.

For a different zing, try zacatecas mole verde, chile verde beef brisket, roasted corn-pasilla salsa, crema and queso chihuahua, all stuffed into a flour tortilla. Taco purists may call foul to the addition of cheese, but it's a fine compliment here. Brisket lends a beefiness missing from most conventional ground beef tacos. It's a milder dish, so I suggest using some of the hot sauce on the table for extra oomph.

Why not go all out and try a couple side dishes? My daughter loves elote mexicano (grilled corn "street style" with lime, chile, and queso cotija). Grilled corn has the sweet, charred thing going on. Not overly sweet, but perfectly cooked, it's perfect alongside some of the spicier dishes. And don't miss out on the frijoles negro: slow-cooked black beans topped with pico de gallo and queso fresco. Rustic and simple, black beans are an essential side dish that pair perfectly with nearly anything on the Barrio menu.

The verdict

Sure, Mexican food isn't the most exotic ethnic cuisine. But there are definitely different flavors than the usual grilled cheese or chicken nuggets. A little guacamole, a few tacos, a quesadilla and maybe some flan for dessert, and you have a pretty easy-on-the-palate Mexican feast perfect for the entire family. Now, pass the chips and salsa, please!

Dec 18, 2011 02:36 pm
 Posted by  Alan Stamm

Colorful, informative and vividly written . . . so this eyebrow raise as as mild as kid-friendly salsa:

"This new spot" shows you define that second word broadly. A destination open since July, as you admirably acknowledge in the sidebar box, arguably seem more deserving of "this year" or "last summer" than "new."

Ah, but I quibble and know that a monthly's servings can't always be as fresh as those at Barrio. Thanks for a fine report by Joe Hakim!

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Staying Home Alone: How to Know When Your Child is Ready

Staying Home Alone: How to Know When Your Child is Ready

Whether you just want to run an errand or need to hit the gym for a break, it could be time to let your tween stay home alone. Here are a few ways to know your kid is prepared.

Social Savvy: Raising Kids Who Can Make Connections

Social Savvy: Raising Kids Who Can Make Connections

At each stage of development, there are things parents can do for their kids to help them with social skills and making friendships.

Explore the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Explore the Grand Canyon in Arizona

If you haven't seen the wonder that is the Grand Canyon, you owe it to yourself and your kids to go.

Family Structure: Its Importance and How to Create It

Family Structure: Its Importance and How to Create It

Feeling more like a frazzled family these days? Help fix the problem by creating some structure to help your kids feel secure.

Five Ways to Build Structure in Your Family

Five Ways to Build Structure in Your Family

From chore charts to meal plans, here are a few ways to keep families organized.

Play Food Lollipops Craft for Kids

Play Food Lollipops Craft for Kids

Everyone wants a sweet treat after dinner, even if it's for an imaginary meal! Get the tutorial on how to make these old-school treats reimagined as toys.

Sanity Saving Tips for Parents

Sanity Saving Tips for Parents

Avoid the chaos this school season with our ABCs of self-care. We've got 26 ways to enter a more Zen state.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement