Table Talk: Barrio Tacos adds flavor to Columbus' West Fifth neighborhood

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
Cleveland-based Barrio Tacos has opened its first central Ohio location at 1416 W. Fifth Ave. in northwest Columbus. Alex Johnson (left), executive chef, stands with general manager Jorja Fralick on the patio.

Piling on the toppings at Barrio Tacos might be tempting but can be risky, chef Alex Johnson said.

"You've got to keep it simple," Johnson said. "The flavors can be overwhelming if you try too many."

The Cleveland-based taco chain has opened its first central Ohio location at 1416 W. Fifth Ave. in northwest Columbus, and it offers numerous food combinations.

"We're the home of the build-your-own taco," co-owner Jason Beudert said. "Let people choose what they want. It's a pretty cool system."

Barrio, which means neighborhood in Spanish, has such protein options as Coca-Cola-marinated steak, spice-rubbed chicken, braised short ribs and jalapeno-lime shrimp.

Vegetarians and vegans have such choices as flash-fried Thai chili tofu, pan-seared portobello mushrooms and beer-braised black beans.

"We've made it accessible to everyone," Johnson said. "You can do almost anything."

Fish tacos are nothing new, but Barrio has a rotating selection, including grilled mahi-mahi through the end of September.

The toppings include pico de gallo and less common options, such as Western Reserve smoked cheddar, plus salsas and sauces ranging from mild to the Carolina Reaper.

"That's spicy," Johnson said. "It's not for amateurs."

Aside from tacos, which start at $3, Barrio specializes in bowls, which start at $6, and has chips and several salsa, queso and guacamole options.

"At Barrio, we love cooking with fresh ingredients," Beudert said. "It's all things people love."

Barrio replaced Winking Lizard Tavern at the West Fifth Avenue location.

The interior features Day of the Dead murals and safely distanced tables, and the patio has a fire pit and ample seating. The entire space seats 120 with COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in place, Beudert said.

Barrio Tacos was founded in 2012, with the Columbus restaurant being the 10th overall. Others are in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Hampshire.

For the time being, the focus is on dine-in customers, with no carryout or delivery available. A brunch menu is in the offing.

"We want to do this location right," Beudert said.

"We want to be very aggressive in central Ohio."

Hours are 4 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, 614-665-9960.

LemonShark Poke & Makai Grill is joining the Easton Town Center restaurant roster at 3969 Merchant's Row.

A late-fall opening is planned for the restaurant, which will have a Hawaiian theme and offer sustainably sourced sushi-grade fish for the poke meals and authentic hibachi-style meats, seafood and vegetables.

The full-service restaurant, part of a chain founded in southern California, will feature Makai's interactive grilled tasting menu to complement the poke bowls, generally including marinated seafood, sticky rice, vegetables and sauces.

The other part of the equation includes foods grilled in an open kitchen. Guests with tableside grills will have the option of cooking their food.

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Coastal Local Seafood has opened in the spot formerly occupied by the Fish Guys at the North Market, 59 Spruce St., Columbus.

A retail spot at North Market Bridge Park, 6750 Longshore St., Dublin, is expected to open a few weeks.

Both are operated by Ian Holmes.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary

Barrio Tacos, 1416 W. Fifth Ave., can seat 120 people with COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions in place.