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On Monday, December 19th, the Birmingham Lunch Club visited a new restaurant on the Birmingham scene, El Barrio. (MENU.pdf) They’re currently only open for lunch, but this ain’t no Birmingham Dinner Club.

JPT– EL Barrio (Spanish for The Barrio) is a new Mexican restaurant on 2nd Ave N in downtown Birmingham. This is a not a Mexican restaurant where you order a number and get some kind of combination of beef, beans and rice. The menu here was much more diverse. After walking over, we were seated at a large booth in the back of the large room. I think it was the first lunch club visit where there was ample space for all the bros to stretch out on their lunch break. I ordered the chips and salsa off the menu despite the others not being familiar with the basic economic lesson of “There is No Such Thing As Free Chips at a Mexican Restaurant”. The server was nice enough to split that order into quarters on our check which came out to $0.88 apiece for some great, fresh salsa. (I’m the resident salsa snob of the BLC and their Salsa Verde was exceptional.) I’m a taco guy, so I ordered a pork and shrimp taco. The carnitas taco was excellent and the camarones taco was tasty with fresh pico de gallo. I look forward to exploring more of the menu at the new Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Bros

BRH–  El Barrio is a new restaurant on Birmingham’s North Side. It is so new that I couldn’t find directions to it. I met Greg and Joey at their office and we enjoyed a nice walk through Birmingham, where we only passed one dead rat. El Barrio means “the neighborhood.” It was a fitting title… if your ‘hood is filled with hipsters rocking puberty beards and deep V’s. And that’s not just the clientele – it’s the servers. Wannabe Eurotrash aside, we had a server who took excellent care of us. He used terms such as “awesome” and “killer” in describing food. If only his taste matched his enthusiasm for filling our beverages. I ordered the braised beef quesadilla, and the dish was unspectacular. While it tasted fine, the roasted tomatilla salsa was bland. The meal tasted as if it came from a street cart – which isn’t a bad thing – unless you realize you paid $8.50 for it in a swanky downtown location. On top of that, the chips aren’t free. The meal and chips still left me hungry. The atmosphere was decent. The room looked like a log cabin – not your standard Mexican restaurant aesthetic. While relaxing, and overall a nice, light meal, it’s not worth what you pay for.

Overall Rating 2.5 out of 5 Bros

BME– Parking downtown during a weekday can be a real booger bear. And it was not helped by my not being very clear on El Barrio’s locale. I made a swift parallel decision which landed two of my tires on the curb, a yellow one. But there was an out of service meter at this spot, and a sign that read “Two Hour Parking.” I hoped for the best and vowed no bros would be awarded if I was towed or ticketed. Fortunate for The Barrio, that did not affect their rating.

What did? An entree billed as some sort of culinary masterpiece when it was only okay. I ordered a chorizo quesadilla. $8.50. No side, and not big enough to stand alone. It was adequate, but it wasn’t better than the chorizo quesadilla at Agave in Hoover, and the place, as a whole, wasn’t close to Iguana Grill. Not many places are.

The service was exceptional, and the atmosphere was very nice. But I left hungry, and it was too expensive. And that was only lunch. I can’t imagine dinner prices. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but the score I am awarding is based almost solely on superb customer service.

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 Bros

GRT-It was a cold night in Iowa that I was introduced to chorizo by my coworker, Nick. Since then, I have been hooked and ordered it at most places that offered it. When Joey picked El Barrio for his selection, I figured it was just another Mexican place. Then I looked at the menu and saw the following gem: Chorizo Meatloaf. I was on board. We made the walk from our building to El Barrio on 2nd Avenue North. It was easy to find. I asked the waiter for a booth. This worked out, because there was only a booth open at 12:30 on a Monday. This new restaurant was trendy, yet comfortable. Nice décor and excellent service. We snacked on some chips and salsa while we waited for our food. The green salsa was terrific. Our food was brought out in a timely manner and my meatloaf was excellent. Served over an order of mashed potatoes and spinach, the meatloaf was a nice blend of spice and sweetness. My only complaint was that it was expensive for a lunch and that you had to pay for chips and salsa. Other than that, this was my favorite BLC location to date.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Bros

Composite Bro Score: 3.125 out of 5 Bros