I moved out of the Banker's Hill/Hillcrest area just when things were getting interesting, restaurant-wise. Barrio Star has been a quiet talent for quite some time, but I only recently visited to experience their food and atmosphere.
Walking in the front door, we were greeted by this small Dia de los Muertos shrine. It was the first of many beautiful decorations that kept with a traditional Mexican theme, but were also very artsy and new. The skulls adorning the walls kept with the Day of the Dead feel in gorgeous modern colors.
This blue guy watched over us as we enjoyed happy hour.
To start our evening, we ordered two margaritas -- a blood orange and the blackberry/jalapeño. The blood orange was delicious: sweet but not too sweet. Completely homemade. The blackberry/jalapeno was something else! Sweet and spicy all at once, this drink was deserving of its rank as the most popular that Barrio Star serves.
As is traditional at Mexican restaurants, we were served chips and salsa, and since it was a happy hour special, we ordered some guacamole as well. The chips were homemade, and coated with chili powder. Dipped into the lime-flavored guacamole, the combination of flavors was just perfect. The salsa was wonderful as well, pureed rather than chunky (I prefer pureed, as it releases more flavor and is simpler to dip!), was redolent of chili powder and cayenne pepper.
Keeping with the happy hour specials, we ordered a bevy of tacos: salmon, chicken, steak, carnitas, and potato. The chicken had a wonderful flavor, not dry at all, as chicken sometimes is in tacos. The carnitas were slightly sweet, and flavored slightly with a barbecue seasoning. The steak was grilled and topped with a cilantro sauce. My favorite was by far the salmon. Grilled and seasoned perfectly, the salmon stood out as being an unusual choice for a taco filling, and being prepared well. Not a bit dry, and seasoned with sea salt and lime juices, it was extraordinary.
We were sharing, so we were still a little hungry. We ordered the Barrio Bowl, which was a brown rice, beans, hearty greens, pico de gallo, and chicken (can be another meat or tofu). The bowl was very tasty, and healthy! The bowl featured plenty of chicken, a good helping of greens, and rice, but wasn't overwhelmed by the rice as dishes like this often are.
To end our meal, we chose the coconut flan for dessert. I haven't had flan in awhile, and this one made me remember why I enjoy it so much. If your not a fan of coconut, fear not! The coconut flavor is very, very subtle, and the flavor is just that of a delicious custard. The texture is a firm yet wobbly feel, characteristic of a well-made flan.
The great happy hour specials and drinks will definitely necessitate another visit to this gem in Banker's Hill.