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Apr 7, 2010 10:09 PM

Barrio Star

Has anyone been yet? If so, I'd love to hear your impression and any recommendations. I'm planning to go for lunch next week.

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  1. Ditto, I'm going for lunch next week as well.

    1. I saw the posted menu. I think I'll pass on the 14 dollar taco places. It kind of defeats the idea of a taco

      16 Replies
      1. re: kare_raisu

        Did that level of pricing seem pretty typical for Barrio Star, even on the lunch menu?

        1. re: kare_raisu

          Alex, a question for you: I don't know anything about Barrio Star specifically, but I'm curious to your thoughts on this idea of a taco.

          Hypothetically, if $14 is what it cost to make a taco plate where the ingredients are ethically sourced and high quality, and to pay the people who make and serve it a decent wage so they can live in our community, in what way is charging $14 defeating the idea of a taco?

          In other words, does the idea of a taco require using cheap, inferior, industrial ingredients, and/or exploiting workers to minimize the cost? Does the idea of a taco only work in very low-income areas where labor and real estate are cheap (and then people with higher income can visit there and get the "deal" of paying in Bankers Hill dollars for goods/labor that is priced in Logan Heights or San Ysidro dollars)?

          is the idea of taco the same as the idea of ignoring what kinds of exploitation (environmental, livestock, health, labor, economic) are required to make some (most) food "cheap"?

          I'm serious in asking these questions, as I see this meme a lot on this board -- the meme that certain foods, particularly "ethnic foods" such as tacos, Asian street foods, etc -- have built in to their essence the idea of cheapness, as though it's wrong to try to make them with better ingredients or a greater consciousness of the impacts of food decisions.

          1. re: jayporter

            Jay, not questioning your justification on cost, but the real question is whether a taco plate in SD can sell at that price point? I'd probably pass on that option for something else on the menu.

            1. re: cstr

              As I don't eat factory meat if they could give me tasty grassfed carne asada tacos or a burrito I would totally buy them at $14 cause that is a decent price to me!

              1. re: jturtle

                Make sure you get to Nopalito in SF next time you are there.

              2. re: cstr

                If the restaurant uses high quality ingredients and knows how to cook I think people in SD would buy such tacos.
                The best example is Bulls Taco - the tacos are good but nothing outstanding in terms of quality. This taco shop lives from the use of unusual, relatively high quality ingredients and has no problems to sell some of their tacos for $9.

                1. re: honkman

                  what about at $14. that's a nudge over 50% more than Bull Taco. Certainly there are the exceptions and early adopters of grass fed, like jturtle and Josh, but it's not the main stream. My thought, long term, can the place stay in business.

                  1. re: cstr

                    If the place has only $14 tacos on the menu most likely not. But if the restaurant in general uses high quality ingredients and has many good (more expensive than the average restaurant) options I think it will stay in business.
                    I think the Linkery is a good example. The average cost for most dishes at the Linkery might be a little bit higher than at your average commodity meat/non-organic restaurant but it looks like that people are willing to pay for the much better quality of the ingredients.

                    3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

                    1. re: cstr

                      I don't think it's $14/taco is it? I think that was for multiple. I could be wrong though because I have not seen the menu nor been there yet.

                    2. re: honkman

                      I agree with your statement about Bull Tacos.

                    3. re: cstr

                      cstr, I agree with you about the challenges in selling food that's associated with "cheap street food", at prices reflecting a different kind of restaurant cost structure. No argument there, for sure.

                      jturtle, I'm in the same boat as you - I'd pay $20, given that (as far as I know) there are no grass-fed carne asada taco options in San Diego.

                      I just wonder why some San Diegan chow-ers consider some food (steaks, burgers, seafood) eligible for the upgrade into "higher quality, higher ethics, higher price" but other foods (tacos, birria, barbacoa, pho, noodles, others) do not seem to qualify as eligible for this.

                      1. re: jayporter

                        Jay, I've had high-end burgers in my travels and enjoyed every bite, cost wasn't even an issue but, as you, I'm on the lower end of the bell curve. However, sans the SD chower philosophy, can this survive in SD?

                        1. re: cstr

                          I don't know, and I don't disagree with your skepticism.

                          My experience is that creating a market for simple/street food made with premium ingredients in San Diego is exceptionally dicey, that it's very difficult to find a price point that covers the cost but still has a market.

                          However, it appears to me that BurgerLounge is doing a very good job of creating/growing that market for a traditional commodity item, and it appears to be thriving. This suggests that it's possible to streamline everything else in the business to where the business can bear the additional food costs and keep its prices only, say, 2-3x that of the commodity versions (which means a burger at $7 instead of $3).

                          It appears there are enough people willing to upgrade at that level for burgers, just as millions did for Starbucks from $1 coffee at the mini-mart to $3 coffee.

                          Whether that same model applies to a taco plate in San Diego -- what's $7 at a taco shop becomes $15 at a certain kind of restaurant (and $20 at another) -- I don't know. My experience says, "maybe", if a lot of other things work out right.

                          On the other hand, I think straight up small street tacos, made from premium grassfed/pastured and organic ingredients, at $4.50 each a la carte (as opposed to the typical $1-$2ish you find around town) would have a big market (as Honkman suggested with his mention of Bull Taco) in this town if done well. But I think there would certainly be some grumbling about this as being "against the idea of the taco", which is why I really am curious to explore 'the idea of a taco" in San Diego, as articulated by kare_raisu.

                          I don't like that the idea of a taco may demand that it be made with substandard or exploitative ingredients, because then I wouldn't like tacos, and that would be a bummer.

                          1. re: jayporter

                            Yah, I agree with the risk level, I guess we'll have to see what Barrio brings to the table. I'm curious what Alex might think about this.

                    4. re: jayporter

                      I'm all against the notion that Mexican food is inherently 'cheap' and you shouldn't spend $$$ on it.

                      Jay, if you could ensure me that the all the variables - ethically sourced and employees ethically waged etc. - are in place, then I would absolutely love to try those tacos but they would have to be significantly better than a specialist taqueria for me to go back and pay for them again.

                      I understand where you are coming from and I support it 100%. I admire from the deepest part of my heart what your mission and vision is. If anyone is putting a flame under the sysco pumped restaurant status quo of San Diego, it is you and I am sure of it.

                      I just don't get a good impression when they are alongside 'bowls' and when I have walked by having the impression that they are more concerned with being trendy and hip. I am not a huge fan of the owners other restaurant in PB so that may have flavored my comment as well.

                      Like cstr writes - I'd much rather get something else than 14 dollars on the menu than tacos. Its in my outlook that tacos are under this cuisines sub-genre of 'antojitos' or little whims and meant to be casual leisurely street food than sit down 14 dollar meal.

                      So in essence, if you are going to do street food at high prices, its got to be special. Be it like you wrote -organic, local and ethical or be a clever, inventive spin on the base idea. When I ate the Esquites at Pujol in Mexico City - it was magical. A foam of chicharron, they poured the corn broth over the two forms of corn - purple hominy and fresh corn. You don't get much more street food cred than esquites in DF - and despite that I would pay for that dish 500 times more if I lived there in Polanco.

                      1. re: kare_raisu

                        OK, cool, I get where you're coming from. I now think you weren't saying that $14 tacos defeat the idea of a taco, but that was your first impression/gut feeling about this particular taco dish. I was curious to delve into the former sentiment, but totally understand about first impressions/gut feelings, I have them myself all the time, and not always ones I could/would explain on message boards.

                  2. Folks, let's keep it about the chow available in San Diego area restaurants, Chicago and San Francisco restaurants are out of scope for this board.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: The Chowhound Team

                      Even if it's for the sake of comparison to a restaurant here?

                      1. re: DougOLis

                        A passing mention of a restaurant in another city for the sake of comparison is fine, however in depth discussions of restaurants in other cities, or "City X has better [food] than City [Y]" discussions are off topic here. Our goal on this board isn't to compare one city to another, but to help share tips on finding great chow in San Diego.

                    2. I splurged last night with friends and spent $16 for 3 fish tacos and $4.50 for chips and salsa.

                      The tacos were delicious; some of the best I've had-

                      BUT...I cannot justify paying that much again for them. $10 maybe, but at the rate of pay I make (I get by alright, but am nowhere near wealthy), I can't see myself coming back with the prices as they are. If you have the means, I'd say do what makes you happy, but the folks that run this establishment are seriously limiting the demographic of people that will walk through those doors, for better or worse.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: wahlri

                        What kind of fish were they using for the fish tacos ?

                        1. re: honkman

                          The menu simply described it as "white fish".

                          Interesting, I know.

                      2. Lunch, it would appear, is a Monday - Friday only affair. Stopped by today to try it and found Barrio Star was closed. Sign out front says M-F for lunch :-(

                        Ended up down the street at Jimmy Carter's...what an abomination. Cumin loaded chilaquiles? Never again...