It's no surprise that when you survey the commercial offerings on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope you find a wealth of toddler boutiques, runner's shops, alternative coffee houses and other bougie staples. But what is surprising is that out of all these upper-middle class, moderately priced pleasantries, there's hardly an innovative or even noteworthy restaurant. Enter Barrio.
The name, for all those who've forgotten their seventh grade Spanish or who've never played Grand Theft Auto, means neighborhood. While Third Street and Seventh Avenue is about as far from the barrio--the real barrio, so to speak--as possible, the new Mexican restaurant, finished with a pink and orange awning and a mural of an oversized parrot and avocado, has proven to be more than palatable to the Park Slope crowd. Really, the place is a Sloper's dream come true, with an outdoor seating area large enough for people watching and the stroller, exotic-sounding, if weak, mixed drinks, vegetarian options and a kids menu to boot.
On the other hand, although it's easy to take cheap shots at my own neighborhood, it's hard to say if Barrio is really what Park Slope needs. Especially since the menu, which features fancy, if somewhat uninspired, spins on Mexican standbys, is distinctly similar to the pan-Latino offerings directly across the street at the Miracle Grill.
But, initial misgivings aside, the evening my cousin and I spent at Barrio was totally enjoyable. We started off conservatively with guacamole and old-fashioned margaritas--both smacking with a bit of sweet lime and salt--which made way for my entree of Guelaguetza Salmon ($16.50), a huge cut of seared salmon, blackened on the outside but moist on the inside, and brilliantly served with hominy. Hominy, which unfortunately I rarely see on menus, is a starchy and satisfying variant of corn, with a subtle nutty flavor that perfectly accompanies lighter proteins. The garlicky spinach and salsa that finished off the dish made it a particularly fine alternative to the typical sautéed salmon and spinach fare.
My cousin, however, ordered the Chicken Mole. The sauce, made from a mix of cumin, cinnamon, chile and cocoa powders, was gritty, and the hints of chocolate I initially enjoyed became cloying. The bold onions and peppers in the poblano-infused rice accompaniment further muddled the mole--chocolate and onions, not so much. Although the sweet plantains that came with it were caramelized, doughy and delicious, any chicken dish that costs $15.50 without any expensive ingredients to bump up the price ought to be prepared more carefully.
With Bogota, Lobo, Dos Pollitos and Maria's Mexican Bistro, Park Slope may not really need another sangria-slinging and guacamole-grinding Mexican place. But sangria and guacamole are so good. And, you know, there's never too much of a good thing.
210 Seventh Avenue at Third Street