Barrio Urbano: Happy Hour Report Card

The El Picado margarita offered enough flavor and kick to become our favorite part of this happy hour.
The El Picado margarita offered enough flavor and kick to become our favorite part of this happy hour.
Evie Carpenter

The Spot: Barrio Urbano 5632 North Seventh Street 602-287-9000 www.barriourbanophx.com

The Hours: Happy Hour is Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m.

Perfect for: Sipping on a top-notch margarita while watching cornhole bags fly through the air next door.

Interior: We thought that Lola Coffee at the Yard, which filled the current Barrio Urbano space, had nailed the perfect indoor-outdoor balance, but after walking into the slightly renovated restaurant with added Mexican flair, we realized that Barrio Urbano got right everything Lola had wrong.

See also: Goodwood Tavern: Happy Hour Report Card

The biggest structural change comes in the form of an added bar where Lola used to have a lounge area close to the open garage-door style windows. While sitting on the enclosed patio and looking back into the restaurant, the bar seems logical, like it should have been there the whole time.

We didn't even mind the noise coming from the Yard's guests next door playing ping-pong, cornhole, and other games. And, of course, the colorful and stylish décor and prompt, helpful service was nothing short of what we would expect from one of Silvana Salcido Esparza's restaurants.

The happy hour version of Salcido Esparza's signature guacamole didn't quite meet our expectations.
The happy hour version of Salcido Esparza's signature guacamole didn't quite meet our expectations.
Evie Carpenter

The Food: While the atmosphere matched our expectations, we have to say the food fell short. Nothing was bad, per se, but when we're visiting a restaurant of one of the most celebrated chefs in town, we hope for more than just "not bad."

With six excellent-sounding options on the happy hour menu, each priced at $5, we had a hard time choosing just a couple to sample. We were set on the esquites and totopos negra, but quickly decided on a third choice when our waiter told us there was a $3 guacamole available that hadn't made it to the menu yet.

Our biggest complaint with all three of our dishes was directored toward the tortilla chips that accompanied them. They were chewy. Clearly they had been freshly made, but maybe a few extra seconds would have turned them into the perfectly crispy vessels we wanted to dip into our guacamole, corn, and black beans instead of the little triangles we struggled to tear through.

Flavor-wise, the guacamole was good, with diced onions and tomatoes, jalapeño, pomegranate seeds, and large chunks of avocado. But it seemed everything had just been chopped and placed in a bowl. With envy, we eyed the table next to us that ordered Salcido Esparza's signature tableside guac, perfectly mashed together right before our eyes.

Luckily, we really like black beans on their own, but for someone who doesn't, we would recommend steering clear of the totopos negra. It comes as a bowl of soupy black beans with cilantro, red onion, cotija, and crema drizzled on top. We understand everything was placed on top of the dish for presentation purposes and maybe there was a little assembly required to mix it together ourselves, but we wish there had been more of the delicious variation of flavors throughout the entire dip rather than the occasional bite of onion.

 

The esquites were the favorite of the food options during happy hour.
The esquites were the favorite of the food options during happy hour.
Evie Carpenter

The esquites were by far the favorite of the three. With charred corn, butter, aioli, cotija, tapatio, and lime, this dish was bright, sweet, and creamy. We added a little more tapatio to give it a stronger kick, but didn't think to do that until we had only a few bites left.

The Drinks: The $5 margaritas were the stars of the happy hour. We tried the Rose, which featured hibiscus to give it a beautiful magenta color and a touch of sweetness, and the El Picado.

This spiced drink was a mixture of house-infused Serrano and chile de arbol Chinaco blanco, cucumber simple syrup, fresh lime, and tajin, a chile lime salt. We were happy to find that the combination of bold flavors didn't overpower the tequila but rather enhanced it. Plus, we could eat tajin by the pound, so we thoroughly enjoyed the sprinkling of the spice on the rim of the glass and the decorative cucumber.

Barrio Urbano also offers $3 Mesican beers, $4 specialty beers, and $5 glasses of wine during happy hour.

Hibiscus gave the Rose margarita its striking color.
Hibiscus gave the Rose margarita its striking color.
Evie Carpenter

Conclusion: If this happy hour were at anyone else's restaurant, we wouldn't have thought twice about it. But knowing Salcido Esparza was behind it, we have to say were underwhelmed. In the chef's defense, she was not in the kitchen actually sending out the dishes we received and most of our complaints came from execution errors, but at the same time, we'd hoped for a higher level of quality control. Thankfully, the excellent margaritas allowed us to walk away from this happy hour, well, happy. We would even venture to say, since the closing of the beloved Gallo Blanco, Barrio Urbano might just have the best margaritas in Phoenix.

Don't miss: The El Picado margarita Skip this: The tortilla chips, or at least just make sure you get a fully cooked batch

Grade: B

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