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Gwen Ashley Walters
June, 2012, Page 158
Photos by David Moore
Silvana Salcido Esparza’s latest Mexican dazzler serves savory street tacos, bold breakfast plates and mellow mole.
“Do you want to sit on the fun side or here?” our hostess asks. Here is the half of Barrio Queen that began life as Silvana, the short-lived “Euro-Mexican” concept that owner Silvana Salcido Esparza opened last January alongside its more casual sibling. Just a month later, Esparza – whose Barrio Cafe flagship remains a Valley favorite – terminated the dual-eatery experiment. Bye bye, Silvana. Long live Barrio Queen. The food is the same on both sides, but the vibe is not. The “fun” side is a noisy, energetic mélange of vibrant colors, Mexican tile, reclaimed wood and ironworks. The “Silvana side” seems comparatively muted, sparsely decorated with orange banquettes and antique-white leather chairs. The wraparound patio is definitely fun when it isn’t too warm.
Only a few Barrio Cafe dishes made the trip across town, so there’s still reason to trek to the old ’hood, and enough exclusive dishes here to draw people from all over.
Start with chunky guacamole ($6), or splurge on the generous, tableside iteration ($10), sprinkled with pomegranate seeds (in season; otherwise, dried cranberries), but consider homey papas Mexicana, seasoned plank fries topped with spicy chile verde ($6).
Hone in on two areas of the lengthy menu: fantastic street tacos and killer breakfast plates. Among 30-plus tacos ($2.50-$4.75), you can’t go wrong with cochinita pibil, the Yucatan pork dish seasoned with achiote and sour orange. Beer-battered shrimp (camaron) with cabbage and spicy cream also ranks high, as does the tastes-better-than-it-looks milanesa y salsa cruda, strips of breaded pork topped with a dull green but tangy chile paste.
Nine all-day breakfast items are siesta-inducers, including fabulous egg-topped green chile chicken enchiladas ($12) and chilaquiles ($13) comprised of thick, fried corn tortillas tossed with hard Spanish sausage and either pork chile verde, rich red chile sauce with pork or sweet black mole with chicken.
The mole entrée ($22), listed as Cornish game hen, arrived as well-done chicken breasts with woefully overcooked vegetables, but I’d eat that deep, subtly sweet mole over shoe leather. Smoky chuleta de flor de jamaica ($22) – thin, home-style grilled pork chops – are so flavorful they don’t need the smidgen of zippy beet and hibiscus wine sauce.
I was seduced by the description of the Barrio Queen margarita ($12), with house-made orgeat (almond syrup), bitters and nutmeg, but the pretty peach hue belies the too tart drink. Stick with the decent $6 casa margarita, or upgrade it with one of 370-plus tequilas for an extra charge. Finish with excellent flan ($5) or canela-scented rice pudding ($6) that tastes like Red Hots soaked in milk.
Service can be hit or miss – and is virtually always leisurely – but when it’s a hit, Barrio Queen is fun no matter where you sit.
Photos - From left: flan and rice pudding • patio at Barrio Queen
: 7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale
: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; daily happy hour 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., reverse happy hour 10 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday.
: Guacamole ($6 or $10), chile verde papas Mexicana ($6), cochinita pibil taco ($3), camaron taco ($4.25), chuleta de flor de jamaica ($22), arroz con leche ($6)
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