Dinner at Barbacoa was a lesson on the inherent problems that come with having expectations. Before going, I thought the restaurant focused on burritos and tacos. I assumed that, since "barbacoa" means tender, shredded meat often served on tortillas, that the name of the restaurant was indicative of what they served there.
I was wrong. Expectation No. 1 shot down the tubes. Barbacoa's menu proved to be extremely diverse.
One of the most striking aspects of Barbacoa is the decor. Everything looks handpicked and expensive. As I walked in, I looked down at my own ratty clothes and wondered if I would be handed a job application instead of being seated. I expected to be emptying my wallet for a less-than-filling dining experience. This expectation would also be proved wrong.
I asked to be seated in the main bar area (there are two bars at Barbacoa) and waited for my dining partners to join me. On this fine evening, I would be the proverbial third wheel, joined by my friends Jared and Becky.
After some friendly chatter with our waiter, my friends arrived and started perusing the menus and ordering drinks.
Becky ordered us a half-bottle of King Estates ($14) and found that the wine list was long and varied. The list also provides a description of each wine, so you have a good idea of what you are ordering. Jared scowled at the option of wine and ordered a Stella Artois ($5). His choice would prove to be economical: His first pint emptied the keg. After filling a pitcher with the foamy start of the new keg, our waiter Jordan let Jared know that his next beer or two would be free if he didn't have a problem with his refills coming from said pitcher. Jared said it wouldn't be declasse at all and broke into a grin. (Note: To regularly expect this sort of outcome would be erroneous. It was the equivalent of Jared winning a portion of the Powerball.)
After a quick glance at the diverse appetizer menu, Becky insisted we have some queso fondido ($9). It came out bubbling with just the right amount of chips and tortillas and a good mix of cheeses, peppers and chorizo.
After some discussion with our waiter about the freshness of produce this time of year, Becky ordered a spinach salad ($8) and macaroni and cheese ($4).
The salad was sizable, fresh and served with strawberries. The mac and cheese had a good mix of melted cheese and, interestingly, included peas. I actually ended up eating most of her mac and cheese and—just like I did in grade school—I picked the peas out.
Jared went for the petit filet ($24) with a side of green beans and zucchini chips. His steak came out on a unique carved board. The chef had obviously put a lot of thought into the presentation of our food—a proof of culinary passion in my book. Jared's filet was rich and cooked as ordered, his zucchini chips were awesome and prickly-pear cactus garnish was decent.
I ordered a chile relleno ($4) side dish and a small brick of mini tacos ($11). The chile relleno was more chile than anything else, which was a bit disappointing, but the tacos were fun and delicious.
We passed on dessert, but not because it didn't intrigue us. I grinned when I saw the inclusion of cookies and milk on the dessert menu.
Barbacoa can fit your needs in a myriad of ways. If you are looking for a unique, upscale dining experience, it's there. If you want a place to meet friends and get some beer and filling grub, Barbacoa could be just the ticket with brick oven pizzas and $4 appetizers that you can combine for a relatively cheap and diverse dinner. As in life, if you can lose any expectations you might have, you will be pleasantly surprised.
—Ryan Peck's wagon wheels need to be rotated.