BARRIO CANTINA OPENS IN BOSTONNationally-acclaimed chef, restaurateur, and author Michael Schlow opens Barrio Cantina today. Taking influences from traditional Mexican, Tex-Mex and California Mexican cuisines, Barrio Cantina is Boston’s destination for street tacos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, and Mexican-inspired dishes – all set against a backdrop of more than 80 reasonably-priced tequilas, a margarita menu boasting 15 varieties, and a relaxed, yet attentive level of service from General Manager/Partner Thomas Holland, who has helmed Tico for the last two years.

“Over the last fifteen years in Boston, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring some of the most exciting cuisines of the world through my restaurants,” says chef/owner Michael Schlow, whose restaurants include Radius, Via Matta, two Alta Strada locations, and Tico. “The flavors, ingredients, and passion behind Mexican cooking have always intrigued me, and I’m excited to share these with everyone at Barrio.”

To make the space feel wildly different than its predecessor Happy’s, an all-day diner, Michael enlisted his wife Adrienne to overhaul the once graffitti’d walls and cheeky décor. At six months pregnant with their first child, Adrienne redesigned the entire restaurant in less than three weeks, distressing the walls with warm honey-hued and gold-flecked paint and plastering the entire back wall of the dining room with vintage Mexican film posters from the 1950s and 1960s.

Lush velvet curtains in varying shades of crimson break up the once-cavernous space into an intimate dining room, a spirited lounge with sofas and armchairs in funky, clashing fabrics, and additional spaces for private parties and busy Red Sox game days. Large white candles in hurricane lamps dot the room, lending a warm flickering light. Scattered throughout the restaurant is original artwork and photography by both Michael and Adrienne. Additional design elements include brightly-colored Mexican blankets adorning the walls and a traditional, hand-painted Mexican-tiled chalkboard to highlight Barrio’s cocktails and tequila offerings.

For Barrio, Chef Michael Schlow collaborated with his longtime corporate chef Luis Morales on a menu divided into five sections – shared appetizers, street tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, and entrees. For sharing, there are familiar dishes (Loaded Nachos, Guacamole, Tuna Ceviche Tostados) as well as several dishes with unique Mexican influences (Baby Kale Caesar with Chipotle Croutons, Crispy Calamari with Ancho Dipping Sauce, and Steamed Mussels with Habanero Tomato Broth). There are six types of quesadillas (including a unique Philly Cheesesteak version), and seven street tacos served two to an order (Shredded Confit Chicken, Tongue ‘n Cheek). For entrees, there is the monster of all burritos, the Complete Burrito, with chicken, beef, pulled pork, chorizo, salsa, avocado, hot peppers, rice, and beans. Other highlights include Mexican Spiced Fried Chicken with Chipotle Fries, the Barrio Burger topped with jack cheese, avocado & jalapenos, and the Old Fashioned Cheeseburger with Chipotle Fries.

At the long, polished wood bar that runs the length of the dining room, more than 80 tequilas line the bright tomato-red shelves. Served on their own or in one of Barrio’s 15 signature margaritas, the tequilas include blanco, reposado, anejo, and extra anejo varieties. Barrio’s cocktail program specializes in these tequilas, as well as house infusions like ghost chili-infused tequila for the Hot ‘n Skinny Margarita, hibiscus-infused tequila for the Tico-tini and pineapple-infused vodka for the Tito’s Chi Chi. Frozen margaritas are also offered in flavors like strawberry, pomegranate, watermelon, raspberry, and kalamansi. The cocktails are rounded out by more domestic and imported wine and beers, including more than 20 by the bottle and 13 on draft (a mix of local and Mexican/Carribbean).

Barrio Cantina serves dinner nightly starting at 5:00 PM with lunch, weekend brunch, and outdoor patio dining to follow in the coming months.

Barrio Cantina
1363 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215
(857) 753-4100 <>
Twitter: @BarrioBoston <>
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