OK, I know I am not in the restaurant critic business anymore. I wish I was. I really loved that job, but traveling as much as I do means that I can't stay current with the local dining scene as much as I need to if I want to regularly keep tabs on Twin Cities restaurants. Last week I was here for a whopping seven days in a row!!! So I went to three new restaurants in search of a good meal. I hit .666, which in the majors would be Hall of Fame stuff. Barrio is the best restaurant of 2008. End of story. Not even close. The service is befitting of a casual taquería/tequilería, the staff knows their product, the beverages are insane (Johnny, you are a stud and a blessing to those of us who don't drink booze but want something other than a glass of Diet Coke with our dinner.), the tequila list is remarkable and should be a dream for any cactus-juice heads in the family, the room works, and the food is fantastic.
I tried approximately twelve items. The prices are conducive for grazing, and I can tell you that I would put Barrio's carnitas or skirt steak tacos up against anyone's anywhere. I was in Mexico ten days ago on a combo work and family trip and ate plenty of street tacos, and Barrio combines the best of the native taquería vibe and honesty with some truly stellar cooking. The salsa(s) are superbly crafted and uber-fresh; the meats are impeccably roasted or grilled (depending on what you order); and the tongue tacos, although not available on my recent visits, are already buzz-worthy in the crowds I run with. Please, no Bizarre Foods jokes. All you have to do is taste a well-made taco de lengua to see what all the fuss is about. This is a complete restaurant with a great concept, is priced well for the market and the times we live in, and one that serves great food and offers a well thought-out beverage program. If you haven't tried Barrio, make a point to. And yes, it is open for lunch.
The New Yorker 's Food Issue just dropped. Check out why this is one of my fave food mags, even only a few times a year:
Has anyone noticed that after The Rake went away, its web presence stayed intact? Well now mnspeak and rakemag.com are also gone, replaced by something called secretsofthecity.com, which is less interesting than watching my laptop boot up. I really liked MNSpeak. And where on earth does the Rake site issue leave former Strib scribe Jeremy Iggers? His Breaking Bread blog is still posting, buried so far in the site that I had trouble finding it. Ann Bauer is still listed as an editor, but I cant find her stuff, and all the other food/wine blogs are 'retired.' I bring this up because not only are restaurants closing at a rate of several per week (bye, bye Babalu, etc., etc.) but food-related media content is going to evaporate faster than Mike Gravel's 2012 presidential dreams.