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“Great Margaritas and Gourmet Mex.”
Review of El Barrio

El Barrio
Ranked #2 of 959 Restaurants in Birmingham
Certificate of Excellence
Cuisines: Mexican
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Late Night, Breakfast, Reservations
Description: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/45/1641255/restaurant/Downtown/El-Barrio-Birmingham
Birmingham, Alabama
Level 5 Contributor
61 reviews
43 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Great Margaritas and Gourmet Mex.”
Reviewed October 23, 2013 via mobile

This local downtown Mexican restaurant has fantastic food and craft margaritas. Modern yet rustic decor on the inside with delectable food for good times with business associates or friends. After 6 o'clock, there can be a wait for a table.

Helpful?
Thank McKD92
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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350 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    258
    68
    22
    2
    0
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Rockaway NJ
Level 4 Contributor
35 reviews
32 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Think Mexican inspired”
Reviewed October 3, 2013

El Barrio is located in an attractive space. The vibe is young and energetic, staff pleasant and friendly, prices keen, and food - Mexican inspired rather than straight Tex-Mex, though there are some more typical choices (tacos, quesadillas) - tasty. So why only 3 stars?
First, the service, though pleasant, was disorganised and unfocused. We were never quite sure who our server was and were left too often waiting for drinks, food, check etc.
Second, the food. There just aren't enough choices. The balance is unconventional, with very little other than chips to have as a starter; there were no seafood choices (other than fish taco specials, sold out by 7.30), and the selection overall was just very limited.
Overall, not bad, but could be much better.

  • Visited October 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank OldSilhillian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Birmingham, Alabama
Level 5 Contributor
54 reviews
42 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Not Your Typical Tex-Mex”
Reviewed September 16, 2013

El Barrio (Spanish for “the neighborhood), is located in Birmingham’s increasingly hip loft district. Don't let the name fool you, however, this is not your standard Tex-Mex restaurant. This is Tex-Mex with a twist because the chef/owners are not your typical Tex-Mex kinda guys. Brian Somershield and Geoff Lockert are graduates of Frank Stitt’s French-inspired kitchens, while the chief de cuisine, Neville Baay, is a classically trained private chef from New Zealand, who didn’t know anything about Mexican food before coming to El Barrio. No matter, because these guys are taking local, fresh Southern ingredients, classical cooking techniques, and using Mexican flavors as a building block to put together some of the most creative dishes in Birmingham.

For example, take their meatloaf. This is not June Cleaver’s meatloaf, but rather chorizo meatloaf with spinach, cotija-mashed potatoes & ranchera sauce. This being the South, there is even a corn dish, called Elote Asado (grilled corn on the cob, cotija, cilantro, chile and lime) and fried okra with masa and served with spicy cabbage, chipotle, sour cream, cilantro and lime. There is the classic al pastor, made with chile-marinated pork and charred pineapple salsa. This is my favorite. Then there is the barbacoa, made with slow roasted beef, queso fresco, chipotle, cilantro, onion; and veraduras, made with avocado, charred corn, jicama, pico de gallo, pepitas, and house-made sour cream. There’s even a hamburger, the Barrio Burger, which is juicy and served with pickled onions and spicy mayo. Either bring a friend or ask for a to-go box.

Because this restaurant is built on a Tex-Mex chassis, you can still find chips and salsa and margaritas on the menu. But even these staples are given the El Barrio twist. The salsa is made fresh daily and is a little bit different every day. Some days, it may have corn, while other days, it could even have pineapple or mango. You just don’t know.

El Barrio serves four different speciality margaritas. They are the El Barrio
(Sauza, Patron Citronge, lime, orange, & tamarind); the Tradicional (Cazadores, Grand Marnier, and lime); the Grapefruit Margarita (Sauza, lime, and grapefruit); and the Mescal (Monte Alban, El Jimador, lime, and agave nectar). While the El Barrio usually works in a pinch, if I’m feeling particularly festive, then I go with the Mescal.

All this great food is served in a casual, but chic setting with reclaimed, rustic wood, zinc-top tables, and lights made from industrial roof-vents. One side of the restaurant consists of a floor-to-ceiling Diego Rivera-inspired mural of curious complexity. Finally, all this is served by an efficient and attentive, but friendly wait and bar staff.

Show up hungry, but be prepared to wait. El Barrio doesn’t take reservations, and the place fills up quickly. By 6:15pm, and you waiting at the bar (not such a bad thing, however).

  • Visited September 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank CT1970
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Birmingham
Level 6 Contributor
177 reviews
120 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
“great food in a great location”
Reviewed September 5, 2013

This is a great restaurant in an up-and-coming part of town. El Barrio offers a fairly extensive menu with a few combo platters and lots of al a cart. You have to pay for the chips but you get to choose a dip (avocado, beans, fundido goat cheese, or the ever popular salsa). They have quite a few appetizers - start with the masa fried okra for something different (okra cut long ways, lightly battered and fried, atop a bed of cabbage/corn slaw, with cheese drizzled around the side). They have a variety of tacos and burritos but also have pork, chicken, steak, and veggie entrees. There are a few daily specials so be sure to ask for them. The hanger steak is outstanding as is the beef & bean burrito platter. They have four types of margaritas (including a daily special, such as watermelon), lots of wine, and about 20 bottled beers - also several of the local brews. The seating is open so it can get a little loud but the prices are good and the service is great.

  • Visited August 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank kjinright
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pell City, Alabama
Level 5 Contributor
87 reviews
59 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“great lunch”
Reviewed August 15, 2013

We had a great late lunch at El Barrio today. This is the second time we've done late lunch there. We've also eaten dinner there once. We show up at 1:00 - the normal lunch crowd is clearing out. I'm a bit surprised how many people eat a late lunch - many of them are retired like us. We started with a margarita - mine was a watermelon margarita - very good. Mar ordered guacamole - she declares it's the best guacamole she's ever had. On a lark almost I asked the waitress if they made their own chips-she said they did-I said "any chance they're gluten free?" wondering if she knew what I was talking about. She responds - "the ingredients are certainly gluten free - are you concerned with cross contamination levels?" - I said probably not - she said there was a chance for cross contamination in the kitchen but otherwise gluten fee - WOW - knowledgeable on wheat free! I had chips and guacamole at a restaurant! Mar had the shrimp quesadilla, as usual. I had the grilled shrimp and scallops, again. This is now one of my favorite dishes anywhere. Served over a bed of rice and black beans with various garnishment, tomatoes, etc. It is just fantastic - great! It's a good thing we don't live closer. We can't really comment on very many of the menu items because we've become enamored with certain dishes too quickly. Knowledgeable staff and favorite entrée gets an "excellent". Can't wait to go back.

  • Visited August 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank guvnerwl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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