Dining Out in PHOENIX
by John Mariani

One of the best Mexican restaurants in Phoenix is Barrio Café, run by the ebullient and intensely authoritative Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (below) and her partner Wendy Gruber.   Three colorful dining rooms and bar make up this engagingly funky place whose menu pictures a red-faced bandito who looks as if he's waited too long for his food.  Be patient:  this is truly excellent, very authentic Mexican food, the ingredients for which Salcido Esparza, who is nothing if not ebulliently serious about her cooking, goes everywhere, from Arizona to Mexico, which she visits once a month to gather things like fresh seasonal oregano.
Barrio Café carries 250 tequilas, and the margaritas are impeccably made, as is the creamy, rich guacamole, which she mixes with pomegranate seeds, adding a nice sweetness and texture to the blend.  Tequila and garlic also lace the delicious shrimp quesadillas, and the house specialties here are tortas topped with items like slow-roasted Mayan-style achiote-spiced cochinita pibil (pulled pork), which is juicy and well-seasoned.  The festive chiles en nogada—poblanos stuffed with chicken, onions, pecans, and fruits--a dish often only prepared for celebrations, are lavished with a rich almond sauce dotted with pomegranate seeds.
 BC notes on its website that its food is not deliberately chile-hot, for Esparza wants the myriad seasonings and spices she sues to reveal them selves in her cooking, and, once you meet her, you'll trust your appetite to her and learn a lot in the process.
. best mexican restaurant 2002-10 . best mole . best horchata . best modern mexican cuisine . best upscale mexican cuisine . best badass chef . top mexican restaurant ranking arizona . zagat 27 points . 3 AAA stars . *****five stars arizona republic .

2814 N. 16TH STREET
PHOENIX , AZ , 85006


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