If there's one thing Silvana Salcido Esparza is not, it's timid. About three weeks after opening Silvana Bistro (Barrio Queen's fancy-pants sister), she shut the place down because a little voice told her the concept wasn't going to work. No hand-wringing, just boom. Done.
Now Esparza's got a brand-new plan for Barrio Queen, which swallowed up Silvana Bistro but kept a few of its high-end offerings. Funny thing is, her new plan looks a lot like her original plan -- the one she had before she let other folks start tinkering with her concept -- and most of it's coming down by October 1.
Esparza plans to get rid of the dishes she imported from Silvana Bistro, admitting that the hybrid menu she has in place now simply "doesn't make sense." She says she agrees with the tepid reviews she received and swears she knows how to fix the problem.
Barrio Queen will keep the tacos and tequilas for which it's already famous, but the menu will be much more focused on rustic dishes from all over Mexico. Esparza calls what she'll be dishing out "mercado food," the simple, straightforward dishes that make up Mexico's regional specialties.
She plans to "up the ante" in terms of tacos as well, adding machaca and suadero -- beef brisket, which is fried in lard after slowly simmering for hours. Esparza compares the ultra-tender, falling-apart nature of the meat to cabeza. It's a common dish in Mexico but nearly impossible to find here in Arizona, Esparza says.
On the weekends, she'll have menudo and maybe even eggs with sesos (brains).
Part of the new menu will be devoted to family-style meals. So customers who order family-style tacos, for example, will be given a plate of meat, a stack of house-made flour or corn tortillas and all the condiments to build their own.
Esparza also plans to make "rasparitas," her coined word for margarita snow cones (i.e. raspados). Barrio Queen will be making all its own raspado syrups and flavors will draw from traditional Mexican flavor profiles, including tangy tamarindo.
Meanwhile, the space is also getting a re-do. The tiny four-seat bar will be expanded three or four times over (we can expect a short stretch of indoor-outdoor bar as well), and the kitchen will be re-structured to streamline operations.
Esparza in the process of talking to Betty Alatorre de Hong of Paletas Betty, whom she hopes will create interesting flavors such as avocado for her neveria -- a tiny indoor ice cream shop. We can also expect a tiendita, a tiny retail shop devoted to Mexican arts, crafts and culture.
So think about this: The original Barrio Cafe (which actually sits in the barrio) boasts white tablecloths and pricy dishes such as duck, while Barrio Queen sits in chi-chi Scottsdale and specializes in Mexican soul food. One of life's (and Esparza's) delicious ironies.