Barrio is the People's Choice champion for a good reason. The consistency and deliciousness of its food has always seemed a bit effortless. Not that the staff aren't working their tails off, but they never let you see them sweat. Chef/owner Steven Draheim and crew have taken Barrio from a food cart, to a small brick and mortar on Minnesota Avenue in downtown Bend, to adding a food truck for catering, finally moving to a new, much larger space on Wall Street They made it look easy.
Taking over the spot previously occupied by Sweet Saigon was a perfect choice, as it was rare to go to the previously smaller location without expecting at least a little wait for a table. Though the Wall Street location is instantly bustling, it is a much more realistically-sized space for the number of patrons excited for Barrio's mouth watering tacos or incredibly delicious paella, or its unbelievably delectable new Sonoran Hot Dog.
Draheim's love of Latin cuisine began with his cooking experiences in Tucson. Following culinary school in Portland, Draheim says he moved down to Arizona and started working with Southwest ingredients: the chilis and the cactus paddles, the citrus, the plantains. "You name it," he says. "It's the flavor profile I was drawn to. Who knows what it would be if my first serious cooking job was in an Italian restaurant?!"
Luckily it wasn't, because the depth and breadth of Barrio's menu is fantastic, making each virgin patron a new regular right away. Draheim has a theory about why Bend has latched onto Barrio so quickly: "It's a combination of things. I think it starts with the name being Spanish for neighborhood. Our identity wraps around that idea of a neighborhood and through our price point, our service style and our philosophy of all being welcome and not excluding anybody," he says.
The real question is what to expect from Barrio in the future as it grows exponentially. "We've done a lot of growing with the food truck and the new space," says Draheim. "I'm ready to settle down. I'm not going to try to gobble up another restaurant or take on any big projects. This is home for awhile. I'm glad it's downtown. This is where we're meant to be." Couldn't agree more.
915 NW Wall St., Bend
Check Barriobend.com for menu and hours