Restaurant Review: Gorgeous Tacos at Del Barrio Cafe | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Restaurant Review: Gorgeous Tacos at Del Barrio Cafe 

Since 2021, Del Barrio Cafe has been making our taco dreams come true.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

Our local temperatures have finally broken that 100-degree ceiling, so it's officially time to call it a hot taco summer. Yes, I understand that eating hot tacos in the hot summer may seem counter-intuitive, but it's just not the case. Tacos are the sustenance of summer: They're always there for you when you need them, they have the chemical components required to keep your ass moving through the shimmering heat outside and when you set a taco on a table, it kind of looks like a sunset. Or sunrise, if you're one of those deranged "morning people."

My own personal hot taco summer recently led me to Del Barrio Cafe, and this place is special. It's been a Midvale destination since 2021, yet it only recently popped up on my radar. It occupies the same drag of State Street where you can find Bumblebee's, Moochie's and B&D Burgers, which puts it in great company for fans of local flavor with a bit of an edge. I remember this space as home to the now-closed Midvale Thai legend Mekong Cafe, so the cozy confines and tight rear parking lot brought back a few massaman memories—but I am delighted with what Del Barrio has done with the place.

The open counter space that offers a peek into the kitchen hasn't changed, and they've updated the walls with some stylized paintings of La Catrina-inspired ladies. The place is small, but not uncomfortable, and the service is quick and friendly. Their menu consists of the Mexican fare one would expect by the decor and the name, but this is one of those rare taco joints that tries to slap you around a bit with their taco offerings. Some high-quality stuff is going on here, but the prices remain reasonable.

I began my odyssey to Del Barrio with a plate of veggie nachos ($10.99) in the vain hope that the veggies would provide some balance for the large amount of tacos I was about to order. The veggie nachos include roast zucchini and sauteed mushrooms tossed with cheese, refried beans and some sliced jalapeño peppers, which are delightful. I don't think I've experienced mushrooms on top of nachos before, but that's an absolute must-add for me going forward. These nachos are a big, beautiful heap that comes with liberal slatherings of guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo, all of which are arranged to form the Mexican flag right on top of your dish. Whether you go with the veggie nachos, or opt for the breakfast-y Nachos Del Sol ($10.99) that include two eggs and bacon paired with Del Barrio's signature almond chorizo, an appetizer of nachos is a showstopper here.

I ordered four tacos a la carte: birria ($4.50), al pastor ($3.99), chicken tinga ($3.99), and the Baja fish tacos ($4.99). Don't feel obligated to commit to a la carte once you've found the taco that suits you, as Del Barrio's tacos also come in trios. However, if it's your first visit, you may want to mix and match.

Of the four that I ordered, it was tough to pick a favorite. As fish tacos are a summer staple for me, I tried this one first. It comes with an excellent array of garnishes; pickled onions, a nice spicy slaw, some crema and a lime wedge all show up to the party, and it's a fun challenge to get as much of this stuff as possible onto the taco proper. Then, you take a bite that zaps you to a beachside cantina like an exceptional fish taco should. It's a lovely fried mahi-mahi that goes a little heavier on the breading which I really enjoyed. The al pastor was overflowing with grilled pork and pineapple; the birria and chicken tinga were piping hot, and filled with melty cheese and meaty jus. They all come packing green and red salsa, onions and other signature accouterment from the street taco realm.

Del Barrio's list of vegetarian tacos are also excellent—the mushroom tacos ($3.49) are the best bet, as you can't beat the filling of cremini mushrooms sauteed with some butter, coriander and white wine. They also have zucchini ($3.49) and poblano pepper ($3.49) tacos that can definitely hang with their meatier cousins. All of their tacos are available in burrito, enchilada and tostada versions, as well—perfect for those who want to take their taco relationship to the next level.

I have had a long time to envision my version of a perfect taco, and so far in my exploits, Del Barrio has come closest to replicating that version. They're the kind of tacos that burn your fingers and leave your hands, wrists and forearms glistening with overflowing meat juices. They're the kind of tacos that demonstrate simple delivery of nuanced flavors, capturing the beautiful legacy of Mexican cooking. There is something unrepentant, unchained and unflinching in these tacos, and they've secured my undying affection.

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