Boy, was this a difficult review for me to write. First of all, I was all psyched to really like Cocina del Barrio. My wife and I have been to Barrio in downtown Minneapolis, and we really liked it. We were looking forward to having a twin (or at least a close cousin) in our neighborhood.
I was all prepared to write a mediocre review. But in Sunday’s Star-Trib, there’s was an article about hot new bars in the Twin Cities, and Cocina del Barrio was one that was mentioned. The article made snide references to “Edina housewives” packing the place like a Louis Vuitton fire sale and “soccer moms in sequined jeans.” We the place was packed all right. But most of the people looked more like outer suburb refugees venturing to Edina because they didn’t want to pay for parking downtown.
So then I got all defensive. But in the end, I still can’t forgive some of the shortcomings we experienced.
Let me start with what we liked. That would be the food. The hype on Barrio’s Edina outpost was that it would focus more on food than tequila. But really, it was pretty comparable. We liked everything that we ordered; some things better than others. So, for example, the guacamole. It’s good, but not outstanding. My wife and I like the guac that we make at home better. The ceviche, on the other hand, is fantastic. We had an order of red snapper ceviche with avocado, radish, and orange. Yum.
We had a couple of orders of fish tacos made with Mahi Mahi. They were as good as we remembered them from our experience downtown. We also had a couple of orders of chicken and black bean tostadas. They were very flavorful, with a crisp tostada covered with black beans and chicken and mounded with shredded greens. Not only were they tasty, but they looked marvelous as well.
In the drink category, we ordered a couple of beers, a glass of wine, and a cocktail. Frankly, I thought the cocktail (macho camacho – blood orange with tequila and a splash of sparkling wine) was nothing special. I wrote in my review of Barrio downtown that I wished they offered tequila flights. It can be quite intimidating to look at a list of 85 kinds of tequila and not know what to order. But my tap beer (Modelo Negra) was very good.
But now for some of the shortcomings. First of all, they’ve got to get their reservation system figured out. We had a very long wait even though we arrived on time for our reservation. Second, after waiting all that time, we were seated at a table in the bar. Now, if you read the Strib article, that’s where everyone’s supposed to want to be seated. And we enjoy a nice, lively bar scene. But the noise on Saturday night was so energetic that it just wasn’t enjoyable. We would have much preferred the dining room.
Lastly, the service just wasn’t up to expectations either. One of our group asked about ordering an entrée. Our server discouraged it with the excuse that it would take too long to come out of the kitchen. Then he forgot to bring one of the items that we did order; we had to remind him.
So here’s my bottom line on Cocina del Barrio. I’d give them another chance if we were going out with a couple that really wanted to eat there. But I think if my wife and I wanted another Barrio experience, we’d go downtown. And if we just wanted a 50th & France experience, there are plenty of choices at that corner.