If you didn’t know Barrio Chino existed, you could easily walk by its plain façade with dim lighting, and illegible sign. We’d like to say it’s one of New York’s best kept secrets… but the word seems to be getting out. With Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner menus, this restaurant is bustling around the clock.
On this evening K+M proactively stopped into Barrio Chino before Happy Hour to put our name on the list for a table. As they don’t take reservations for parties under 8 people, we knew there would be a long wait on a Friday night. So, we planned ahead and put our names in, received our projected wait time of 90 minutes, and then waited for the phone call summoning us back to partake in the delicious Mexican fare.
The exposed brick walls and wooden tables give this spot a cozy, rustic feel. It is a small space, with one long communal table, less than a dozen smaller tables, and a long bar with additional seating; however, beggars can’t be choosers when the wait is nearly two hours. Fortunately the rustic, yet sexy, ambiance that overwhelms the space makes every placement comfortable. We landed four seats at the end of the communal table, right in the center of the restaurant. We were able to enjoy the Asian-inspired Mexican art that hung on the exposed brick, and Chinese lanterns that hovered above us.
As soon as we sat and got settled, our drinks orders were taken right away. A+L decided to try out a couple of the many creative, authentically prepared Margaritas on the list, K ordered a glass of sangria, and M decided hydration was necessary, so he ordered some agua fresca. We already knew Chips & Guac were a must, so we put in our order immediately…. oh, and we thought it was best to make it double! We were hungry! There is no such thing as too much guacamole.
Our freshly prepared chips, guac, and salsa were served on quintessential blue and white Mexican dishes, which added to the already homey atmosphere. All of our proceeding dishes were delicious. We especially loved the rice & beans and steak tacos. The food almost had a light quality, which was refreshing, as some Mexican food (when not prepared well) can be very heavy; it is most likely due to the freshness and quality of the ingredients. While Mexican cuisine is not usually fancy, all of our dishes at Barrio Chino were served tastefully…. though, nothing lasted very long on our plates! Mmm!
Our meal is never complete without dessert! We, of course, had to try the Strawberry Flan (flan is always a must!), and the Strawberry Tacos sounded so intriguing, we couldn’t resist trying them, too! The flan was delicious, but the Strawberry Tacos were a little too dry and didn’t go well with the tortilla. Perhaps a little fried ice cream on the Strawberry Tacos would liven them up a bit.
Barrio Chino is worth the wait…just be sure to have a 1- to 2-hour plan in the meantime. The Lower East Side is jam packed with wine bars, lounges, and speakeasys; it would be hard to NOT find a great pre-dinner spot to grab some drinks while you wait for your long-awaited phone call with the exciting news that your table will be ready in 5 minutes… just enough time to close out your tab, and walk on over to Broome and Orchard. Depending on the time you actually finish dinner, you may even want to have a post-dinner drink spot lined up, too! Fear not, fun is right next door.
What we ate…
- Grapefruit Margarita (A)
- Sangria (K)
- Jalapeño Margarita (L)
- Water- Boo! (M)
- Guacamole and Chips (2+2)
- Shrimp Tostadas (2+2)
- Black Beans and Rice (2+2)
- Steak Tacos (A+L)
- Pork and Mango Tacos (K+M)
- Strawberry Flan (2+2)
- Strawberry Tacos (2+2)
A: Loved this place! Young and fun… the perfect final destination for late night eats after a night out perusing the plethora of nearby watering holes.
K: This place is always busy… which means their food is always fresh! It is bustling at all hours of the day. The food is delicious, authentic, and cheap! Definitely plan to put your name in and have a nearby spot in the wings to hang out at while you wait for them to call you!
L: I absolutely LOVE authentic Mexican food and this place hit the spot. I could eat here every day. If you have more than two people order a double of Guacamole and Chips. It goes fast!
M: I’ll have some more Guacamole and then after that I’ll get the Guacamole. O and then I’ll take a double order of the Strawberry Tacos. I need to go back to this place, soon. (Maybe tomorrow, maybe even tonight)
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Absolutely mobbed Mexican disguised behind Asian decor and mood lighting
- Food/Drinks- 3.5: Pleasantly stellar!
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity included.
- Coordinates- 5: Block- Fun is right next door!
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green light!