As of Monday, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's newest restaurant is (soft) open to the public. For now Barrio Urbano, located at The Yard in north Central Phoenix, is serving breakfast seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- though Esparza says she expects to launch a dinner menu by sometime next week.
If you made it to the short-lived coffee and tapas restaurant that was Lola Coffee, you'll know that the space hasn't changed drastically since Esparza took over. That said, the chef has certainly put her stamp on the place.
The exterior door, accessible from The Yard parking lot, features a brightly painted mural and the street-style art extends into the bar area and dining room. Where the restaurant once offered a sleek, modern design, Esparza has created a cozy and bright dining room with a view of the small, open kitchen. Lola Coffee's bar has been replaced with a walk-in fridge (also adorned with a vibrant mural); a new bar is located on the opposite end of the room.
As far as the menu, Esparza is still making tweaks. But even the chef's biggest fans can expect to be surprised.
"I didn't want to come out with the same bag of tricks," Esparza says.
Compared to the French-leaning cuisine you'll find at her famous Barrio Cafe and the simple fast-casual food she's putting out at Barrio Avion, the breakfast menu at Barrio Urbano really turns up the heat. Esparza says she's not shying away from using chiles and peppers so "you'll know you're eating a Mexican breakfast." Barrio Urbano also makes for a pretty affordable meal with many entrees coming in under the $10 mark.
For now the menu includes a spicy bowl of menudo served Chihuahua-style (as in, with a side of bread for dipping) that will be available seven days a week, as well as torrejas (or Mexican-style French toast) that's made with super-sized loaves of proprietary bollio bread. There are also chilaquiles, huevos divorciados (served with red and green sauces), molletes (an open-faced breakfast sandwich), and a "gringo" breakfast among other things.
Esparza also plans to add costillo adovada to both the breakfast and dinner menu (with an egg for the former and without for the latter. The dish combines beef short rib with verdolagas -- when available -- and a tangy vinegar-based sauce.
Once things are more settled, Esparza says she also plans to introduce daily specials that will push the envelope beyond the regular menu. Look for dishes such as a nopales omelette, quiches, arepas, gorditas, and more. Dinner specials will also be available, once the evening service launches.
On the drinks side, Esparza is serving a proprietary coffee sourced from Mexico, as well as freshly made juices and espresso drinks. There's also a tequila-focused bar -- though the chef says the restaurant will not be a margarita house and will aim instead to offer tequila cocktails instead.
And going back to her roots as a baker's daughter, Barrio Urbano serves a few housemade desserts including orejas (also known as palmiers) and Mexican wedding cookies. For a more substantial sweet tooth, the restaurant sources cakes from Honeymoon Sweets.
Esparza hasn't tapped chefs from her other restaurants to run the kitchen at her newest spot. Instead she plans to use the Barrio Urbano kitchen as a sort of training ground for a young generation of chefs. For this reason and because she's still tweaking the menus, Esparza says the restaurant will continue serving breakfast through at least this week.
For updates, check the Barrio Urbano Facebook.
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View the complete breakfast menu on the next page.