Happy Hour

Barrio Café in Central Phoenix: Happy Hour Report Card

Melissa Campana
Barrio Café at 16th Street and Thomas Road.
Each week we venture to a new restaurant to check out what the spot has to offer during our favorite time of day — happy hour. Whether it's affordable appetizers, delicious drinks, jaw-dropping deals, or none of the above, we'll check out the situation and report back.

The Spot: Barrio Café
2814 North 16th Street

The Hours: Happy hour is Tuesday through Friday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Don’t be sad when you see all three chairs at the bar are taken (no, seriously), because you can get happy hour throughout the restaurant.

Perfect For: Filling the taco-sized hole in your stomach with nothing but the best, plus uptown drinks at downtown prices.

click to enlarge Only three seats at the bar, so choose your friends wisely. - MELISSA CAMPANA
Only three seats at the bar, so choose your friends wisely.
Melissa Campana
The Interior: At Barrio Café, the white tablecloths are a red herring; you won’t find fussiness or pretention here. The walls are equally white, which would almost give the place an insane asylum feel, if it weren’t for the pops of color provided by artwork strung up around the restaurant. The rotating pieces are done by local artists and usually reflect Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s love of Phoenix, food, and politics, not necessarily in that order. In fact, all the white at Barrio Café becomes the perfect blank canvas for a totally colorful experience.

click to enlarge The carne asada taco and the mojo shrimp taco. - MELISSA CAMPANA
The carne asada taco and the mojo shrimp taco.
Melissa Campana
The Food: The menu at Barrio Café is upscale Mexican, but at happy hour it’s the street tacos that shine. Actually, it’s only the tacos that shine: seven choices are offered, each taco only $1.50. Options include duck, cochinita pibil, chorizo, and poblano pepper hash, but we went with old standbys: carne asada for one taco, shrimp for the other. True to form, the street tacos were small and simple, with avocado, cilantro, and red onions, served with green salsa and a wedge of lime. Straightforward and delicious, with a price that’s (far) better than a kick in the pants.

click to enlarge The house margarita at Barrio Café - MELISSA CAMPANA
The house margarita at Barrio Café
Melissa Campana
The Drinks: If you hate good drinks at low prices, you came to the wrong place, because that’s all they have during happy hour. Barrio keeps it simple – all drinks are half off. This means you can throw back a few Mexican beers for $2.50 each, or a Michelada (beer, tomato juice, and lime juice) for $3.50. But if you’re up to it, try something from the “Margaritas y Más” menu; these are not your grandmother’s cocktails. Or, rather, they are, if your tata had a proclivity toward good tequila. Half off means these drinks are between $4 and $7 during happy hour.

click to enlarge Barrio Café might win for prettiest parking lot in town. - MELISSA CAMPANA
Barrio Café might win for prettiest parking lot in town.
Melissa Campana
Conclusion: With variations of the Barrio brand now in South Phoenix, Sky Harbor, and that frat-bro-favorite The Yard, Barrio Café is still the OG and – for our money – Esparza at her best. In a landscape increasingly enamored with restaurant concepts and craft cocktails, Barrio Café still does comida chingona with equal parts tradition and modern flair

Don’t Miss: The shrimp taco. It’s what shrimp is supposed to taste like.

Skip This: Missing the deal. The happy hour window is small and ends early.

Grade: A