Barrio restaurant to open in downtown Kent this summer


Customers eat and talk inside the Barrio in Lakewood Ohio on Saturday, April 20, 2019.

Jorden Shevel

Barrio is bringing its signature tacos, tequila and whiskey to downtown Kent this summer.

The Northeast Ohio taco joint will move into the building that previously housed The Newdle Bar at 295 South Water Street. In a press release, Barrio said it will fit well in the Kent business community because of shared values such as community, family, friends and local art support.

“We are so excited to see Barrio grow into more neighborhoods in just 7 years since we opened the first in Tremont, Ohio,” said Sean Fairbairn, owner of Barrio, in the press release. “Our initial intention when opening Barrio was to give Tremont a taco joint, so we are very grateful to introduce Barrio to new neighborhoods where people of all ages can enjoy!”

The Kent location is going to be on the outside of Acorn Alley, the main shopping plaza in downtown Kent. The restaurant will join over 20 bars and restaurants scattered throughout downtown.

“I personally think it’s a good idea for Kent. I like the restaurant and I believe it will do well,” said Austin Sigman, a junior finance major. “It should be a perfect fit for the community and attract a lot of business. Kent could use a taqueria like Barrio and I’m glad it’s coming to our campus.”

“The Day of the Dead” 

Barrio started off as a small taco joint in Tremont, Ohio, and has expanded to seven locations in Ohio, New Hampshire and two stands in Progressive Field.

As they expand further, more patrons are also exposed to their passion for art. Each restaurant and stand has a series of murals on the walls of each of their seven locations.

A family friend of Barrio’s owners, Michael “Mac” McNamara is the man responsible for the art in each one of Barrio’s locations. From the metal sculptures to the portraits that line the walls of each restaurant, McNamara put his own personal touch in each piece.

Every Barrio mural has its own unique story but they follow the same storyline, depicting a story about family and a couple who falls in love, all painted in the style of traditional Mexican “Day of the Dead” artwork.

The story isn’t the only unique aspect of the art, it is a complete freestyle. McNamara says that he starts with completely blank walls and not a story idea in mind. As he paints and creates the murals, the story unfolds first in his mind and then is displayed on the walls.

Even though he doesn’t decide the story before starting, the pattern is always the same. Customers are introduced to the beginning of the story when they walk through the door and then the life of the story wraps around the walls until finally ending back at the exit.

Just like the rest of the Barrios, McNamara will bring his paint and brushes into Kent to create a signature mural, growing Kent’s art scene and creating another Instagram photo spot.

Barrio is famous for being a build-your-own taco restaurant, where people can tailor their tacos to fit their taste buds. The restaurant features tacos and bowls with a wide array of fresh ingredients including Coca-Cola marinated steak, jalapeño lime shrimp, pineapple salsa, queso and much more. Their extended hours also give guests a chance to enjoy tequila, whiskey, beer and tacos late into the night.

“I’m so excited! I’m from Cleveland and I always went to Barrio with my friends and family in high school, so it’ll be nice to be able to go here now too,” said Sadie Fahsbender, a senior political science major. “I think they will fit in well. While we do have two other Mexican restaurants already, we don’t have any more trendy restaurants so I think Barrio is filling that gap.”

The restaurant brings a unique aspect to every new location it joins. The walls of each location are lined with a hand-painted mural depicting a Day of the Dead theme. Each table has sculpted pieces of metal that hold menus, drinks and pencils. Festive lights line the walls to give a welcoming backlight, and servers pace quickly around the floor, moving with purpose to serve the seemingly never-ending rushes.

“Our restaurant is very high paced, and we tend to be a very busy spot, so we are all high energy most days and nights. Our guests can feel the excitement as soon as they step in our doors, and that carries over to the food and drinks we serve. Each one of our restaurants has a little different feel as well.” said Ryan Grammerstorf, general manager of the Lakewood Barrio. “We do enjoy being busy all the time and we hope that Kent will embrace us and we can all enjoy the success together. We have something for all ages and tastes, so I think it will be a great relationship.”

Barrio will continue to give updates on the Kent location via its social media  channels.

The restaurant open this summer, but there is no set date yet. The Kent location isn’t going to be the only one to open this year. In a press release, the restaurant stated it plans to expand by the end of 2019 to nine different locations in four different states, along with five food trucks and two stands at Progressive Field.

Jorden Shevel covers business. Contact him at [email protected].