Iconic Phoenix restaurant Barrio Cafe is closing. Here’s what we know | Phoenix New Times

Iconic Phoenix restaurant Barrio Cafe is closing. Here’s what we know

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is closing her Mexican restaurant after more than 20 years.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza. Zee Peralta
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Barrio Cafe, one of the most iconic restaurants in the Valley, is closing. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza shared the news with the Arizona Republic on Wednesday and confirmed it via a video shared on Instagram.

"So, uh, it's true. I'm retiring, It's true. I did get a little old, and I am very sick," she said to the camera. "Without me, there is no Barrio, so Barrio has to close."

Her 16th Street restaurant opened more than two decades ago and is credited with bringing Mexican food into the fine dining realm in Phoenix. In 2022, Salcido Esparza sat down with Phoenix New Times to reflect on the restaurant's 20-year anniversary.

"I took myself seriously. I wasn't gonna cheapen who I am. People thought that Mexican food had to be $8.99. They expected chips and salsa," Salcido Esparza said. "But that's not the restaurant I wanted to open."

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Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's Barrio Cafe on 16th Street near East Thomas Road.
Lynn Trimble
Over the years, Barrio Cafe grew to become a restaurant listed on every "Best of" list both locally and nationally. Barrio Cafe has often appeared in our annual Best of Phoenix issue and was named Best Mexican Restaurant in 2021 and in 2022, won the title of Best Milestone for reaching 20 years.

But perhaps more famous than the food is the chef herself. 

Salcido Esparza was nominated for James Beard Awards eight times and is one of Phoenix's culinary greats. She has advocated for women, immigrants and LGBTQ+ equality though activism, political involvement and fundraising. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when her restaurant was closed, she shifted her skills to cooking and delivering food to the Phoenix homeless population.

Salcido Esparza hasn't been manning the kitchen at Barrio Cafe for some time, as health struggles and other interests have occupied her. She's spent more time at her home in Mexico and the announcement of the restaurant's closure comes one day after the chef posted another life update on her social media pages.

She's working on an autobiographical book, titled "La Hija de la Chingada: Chronicles of a Mexican Chef in the U.S.A." Presale will begin on May 5, she shared.

She elaborated in her Wednesday night video.

"I'm gonna go be a lowrider, I'm going to go feed people in Mexico, I'm still a Phoenician, I'll still be around," she said. "But I'm going to write books."

Barrio Cafe remains open at this time.

Barrio Cafe

2814 N. 16th St. #1205
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