Cost: $23 per person
It was DWeiss's birthday the other week, and a dinner was arranged. The plan was to get some dinner and then head over to Kirkwood to meet up with one of his friends who was also celebrating her birthday. Interestingly enough the other part of this birthday extravaganza planned their dinner at the same place as us, Barrio Urban Taqueria. We had quite the crew with us for dinner including the Professor, Spector, Frey, Raffe, Kacy, Pustilnik, Yelin, and JEC's biggest fan Jason Weil.
The layout of Barrio was rather interesting. It's basically one large oddly shaped room with a somewhat misplaced bar that unevenly divides things. They have some TVs but a rather odd number which leaves many people without a view (important to us since the Blackhawks and Bulls were playing [although it's not like we chose a sports bar for dinner so I don't know how fair this complaint is]). More interestingly they seemed very inefficient in serving customers. There was quite a crowd waiting and lots of empty space in the restaurant which I quickly realized was due to the lack of tables and chairs in their possession. Multiple times I saw them ask to take extra chairs away from table that weren't using them (not a huge deal, but kind of weird).
The service was pretty good, and the waitress went through all of the obnoxious troubles of serving a large group with multiple forms of payment. They also have some guy bring a cart over to your table to make guac. It reminded me of the spinner salad presentation at Don Roth's only without any flare.
The cost was pretty good. Most people got tacos which come with 4 of your choice for $10. It was plenty of food for that price. The other entrees weren't much more either as far as cost was concerned.
So we started with some chips with Guacamole and Salsa. The salsa was pretty mediocre but more importantly the texture was too much of a paste. Someone (not placing any blame) asked for the guac to not be too spicy, and we ended up with a bunch of mashed avocados. It was pretty disappointing flavor wise, but at least there was a lot of it (unlike at Dos Diablos). Most of us got a Margarita as well. They were heavy on the sugar and rather light on the alcohol.
Like I said before, the majority of people got some selection of Tacos (Skirt Steak, Carnitas, Tongue, Grilled Fish, Battered Fish, Chicken, Shrimp, or Vegetarian). The universal opinion of the tacos were that they were kind of bland. Everyone appreciated that you could mix and match rather than order some set combination of 4 tacos like at Mercadito, but this didn't make up for the absence of flavor. DWeiss said that the carnitas taco was the best. Specs and the Professor ordered Shrimp and Scallop Fajitas. They were both bothered by how small the scallops were as well as that they had to remove the shrimp tails themselves (not being a big shrimp eater, I'm having difficulty figuring out whether or not that's high maintenance). I got the Lomo de Res Arbol. It was basically sauteed beef in a spicy chili sauce. I was warned that it was spicy and didn't worry that I could handle it, but the flavor wasn't worth battling the spice. The meat was a bit overdone and there wasn't anything else to the dish. Also, the beans on the side seem to be straight from a can (or at least of that quality [not that canned beans are that bad, they're just not special]). Also, the rice is just plain with some peas and corn and not the yellow Mexican rice you'd expect. Possibly most surprising about my dish and the fajitas was how much empty space they left on the plate (there was plenty of food, but they need smaller plates).
The Taco Platter
The Shrimp and Scallops Fajitas
There's really no reason to rush to Barrio Urban Taqueria. It's just slightly sub par across the board, and there are so many better options for tacos in Chicago (like Big Star). I'm giving them 2 out of 5 Pearls.