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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...

                        1. I visited Barrio Star last Wednesday, which what I was told by the staff as their opening day. They have a few kinks to work out but overall the place looked good inside and atmosphere was friendly. Slight problem is that their liquor license is for beer and wine only at the moment. Definitely not a deal killer but would be nice to be able to order a margi. They were also still working out HH specials.

                          I felt the menu was a tad on the pricey side even for "sustainable" ingredients and an upscale atmosphere. Food tasted good but I didn't taste a huge difference for using what some would call far superior ingredients. I had the carne tacos, no complaints. I kept looking at the plate and doing the food cost in my head though and it wasn't adding up. Thinking maybe in the 2/2.5 range per plate it costs to make and even at 5x that cost, which is more than enough to cover labor, rent, ect. the menu price was higher. I think this is a slight complaint but valid for people who are suspicious of a "high end" taco shop. I had the carne tacos, no complaints on taste, portion ok. Overall, I'd go back but I can't help but compare BS to El Camino with is also about the same distance walk for me - although I'd have to walk up that monster hill on Laurel coming home. El Camino also does sustainable, has a cool vibe, and comes in at a little better price point. They also have killer HH deals too on drinks and food. It's a little of a toss up for me but El Camino is nudging them a bit at this point. I'll have to try BS again in a month or so to see where they are but I do recommend for people to check the place out and decide for themselves.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mjill

                            Went last night (sunday). Interesting experience. First, food was delicious--fresh, creative, tasted and looked wonderful. Portions were fine, and I won't quibble about the price. I knew what I'd pay going in and I think it was worth it.
                            The problems are things that I think they will iron out in the coming weeks--
                            SLOW service--corn appetizer came out AFTER the entree
                            Had to ask three times for a second napkin--we had fingerfood--between the corn on the cob and tacos--very messy.
                            Weird, but the straw in my mint/pineapple agua fresca was shorter than the glass and I did not want to waste any of the $4 drink. Spilled down my shirt trying to drink it.
                            Waitress did NOT know the menu. Had to read over our shoulders to ID one of 4 appetizers....heard her tell another couple she did not know if they had iced tea...didn't know desserts.
                            Lipstick mark on my water glass was BAD.
                            The thing they did RIGHT was very unexpectedly (because I thought we were remarkably patient with all the above) comp our dessert and one drink because of the wait and the late appetizer.
                            I think if they can get the small details right, that can still make or break your experience, they will do just fine. Decor, ambiance and food were awesome.

                            1. re: nessy

                              Yeah, sounds like some promise.

                              This, "Waitress did NOT know the menu." is to be expected.

                              I can't remember a time in san diego when a restaurant first opened and the waiter did know the menu.

                              Are they officially opened or is it still in the "soft opening" period?

                          2. Is this the same owner as Cowboy Star? or just using the same name?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kdudeng

                              No, just the same name. Owner is Isabel Cruz, who also owns several other restaurants, including Cantina in Pacific Beach.

                            2. Anyone know if the lunch prices are a bit more reasonable than the dinner prices?

                              1. Just back from lunch at Barrio Star. I would say that it is a nice addition to the neighborhood...because despite some of the hype and high expectations, that is exactly what this place is - a neighborhood restaurant. It has a really pretty, yet sparse nuevo Mexico interior. There was only 1 item on the lunch menu over $10, which I thought given the tenant improvements, the neighborhood and the food sources, was very reasonable. A good deal of the produce comes from local Susie's (?sp) farm. The beef is Brandt (which I know some people have issues with). Service was capable (given it is 1 week old). I noticed they did flub up an order at the table next to us and they bent over backwards to make it right with comped apps.

                                Chow? Nice presentation, lots of vegetarian options with salads, veg. tortas and tacos, multi-grains, beans and tofu. But I was expecting a little bit more of a twist on Mexican food from this owner, menu was really made up of apps, tacos, tortas and tamales. Dinner might be more adventuresome. We shared guacamole (nothing special) and a cucumber appetizer dusted with cumin, chile and cilantro-lime splash which I will be knocking off at home this summer. Lunch mate had chicken tamale that consisted of 1 tamale and quite a bit of extra chicken mounded on top, black beans and rice (chicken a bit dry). I had a Mexican chopped salad with corn salsa, tortilla strips and a cilantro-ranch dressing (too much cumin for my taste, but a nice spicy zing).

                                All in all good, but not destination dining. Beer/wine only at this point.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: foodiechick

                                  Thank you. Your report just told me so much more than this professional[?] article on the same restaurant:

                                  "Not to mention, how to overprice food. "
                                  ^^^Evidently this is not just a sentence, it's a paragraph.

                                  1. re: The Office Goat

                                    What's your beef with that article? Obviously the writer didn't find Barrio Star worthy of a fake write up, congratulating Cruz for such a timely, edgy, fresh, stylish, creative, delicious, sustainable venture. Should he have said something nice or not at all? Is that what journalism, particularly 'service journalism' means to people in this town, in search of a good meal, or other business? I'd be wary of any editorial that didn't question this concept and its prices.

                                    1. re: Granite

                                      I think there are a couple of things that are irksome about this write-up. One is what Jay mentioned above to kare_raisu. Why is $16 for three tacos wrong if the ingredient/labor cost to produce those tacos warrants it?

                                      The other is the lack of Cruz's voice in the article. Wouldn't it make sense to ask Cruz about the pricing before writing such a snotty article? I think if you're a journalist writing about food, it's probably a good idea to get more information about your subject before writing something so inflammatory (and those last two grafs are clearly inflammatory).

                                      Did Mr. Chinn not look at the decor? The address? The source of the ingredients on the menu?

                                      Why would you expect cheap tacos at a place that is obviously aimed at offering a more upscale experience?

                                      Also, the author gives no indication that he even tried the food. Did he try the food? Maybe those tacos were incredibly good, and worth every penny of that price? We'll never know, because he's too busy demonstrating his ire.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        This is the UT's Street 'blog.' It's service journalism-y in the fact that it is short, and rather superficial. Chinn's entry is prefaced by other articles which already covered the meat-and-potatoes of the restaurant, so to speak. I appreciate that he had something different, and REAL to say...

                                        Josh- the article reports what it is, where it is, what it used to be, and that the food is over-priced. This blog states facts and opinions; I doubt it's intended for Pulitzer-grade journalism.

                                        1. re: Granite

                                          I think it's poor form, even if is meant to be a blog, for a large news organization to condone this kind of writing. If Chinn ate there, had a bad experience, and had some information about the owner gouging customers by, say, not selling the product being described, then the acerbic tone he struck would have made sense.

                                          He just comes across as uninformed and reactionary - like countless other people who know very little about food that make a habit of griping about menus they think are overpriced because they're comparing it to what they can get at Boll Weevil.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            Why is everyone getting their shorts in a wad over a $16. taco plate? I gladly pay $12. for 3 goubenators or 3 marlin tacos off a taco truck and I don't have a table to sit at.

                                            1. re: cstr

                                              You can eat three of those tacos? I can barely move after two...

                                              1. re: menuinprogress

                                                I didn't say that I was eating them myself, just said that I pay $12. with out even flinching! Actually, one is pretty filling with the seafood broth.

                                          2. re: Granite

                                            Chowhound : Yelp = Naomi Wise Review : UT Street Blog

                                            Hope this helps! :)

                                            1. re: RB Hound

                                              Actually it doesn't; can you elaborate?

                                            2. re: Josh

                                              A little background info that might help explain some things: Derrik (Chinn) is based in both TJ and San Diego, writes a lot about nightlife, art, culture and sometimes about casual/street food, both for the U-T Street blog and on his blog. He brings his own perspectives and opinions to what he writes.

                                              I don't think the Street piece is meant to be news-y or a proper restaurant review -- I think it's meant to be a blog of one writer's take on things.

                                              Personally, I really like Derrik and I enjoy his writing, even when my opinions differ from his (as they do with the issue of taco pricing :->). He seeks out a lot of really interesting places and events, and comes from a different perspective than a lot of us in San Diego since he lives in the whole city -- both north and south of the wall.

                                              I'm sure at some point the local media will thoroughly cover Barrio Star from a more analytical perspective, too.

                                              More directly, I'll chip in that I went to Barrio Star for lunch last week and thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought it was quite reasonably priced. Of particular note, I'd recommend the chocolate cake as one of the best desserts in town.

                                      2. Is there a menu posted anywhere? Their Web site doesn't seem to be up yet.