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Barrio Cafe Is Reopening After a Pandemic Pause

Barrio Cafe, 16th Street near East Thomas Road.EXPAND
Barrio Cafe, 16th Street near East Thomas Road.
Lynn Trimble

Barrio Café reopens at 11 a.m. today, after being temporarily shuttered since March 16 due to public health concerns. The restaurant will offer in-store lunch and dinner, as well as no-contact delivery and takeout.

The menu will be smaller, with a new twist.

“My food got a little bolder and spicier,” says Silvana Salcido Esparza, the chef who launched Barrio Café with business partner Wendy Gruber in 2002.

Esparza had hoped to wait until COVID-19 cases waned before reopening. “I’m opening now, much to my dismay,” she says. “I have to open because there’s no more money left.”

Typically, the restaurant seats 75 people, but she’s cut that in half to allow for social distancing.

“I took out a lot of tables, and if we can keep it filled then we’ll be okay,” she says. “If not, I’ll hang up my gloves and go to Baja for a few years.”

Esparza has already closed one restaurant because of the financial impacts of COVID-19. On April 18, she shuttered Barrio Café Gran Reserva, which first opened on Grand Avenue in 2016. In May, the James Beard Foundation announced that Esparza is a finalist for this year's Best Chef, Southwest award.

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In recent months, Esparza has kept busy working with volunteers to feed community members and health care workers impacted by the pandemic.

Now she's wondering whether Barrio Cafe will survive the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“If I don’t get the support," Esparza says, "I can’t sustain the restaurant."

See what Valley restaurants are offering takeout, delivery, and dine-in services. Find Barrio Café and many more eateries in our Phoenix Restaurant Directory.

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