THE ICE CREAM sundae offered at new River North hot spot Barrio contains Fruity Pebble ice cream, horchata pecan ice cream, chocolate graham cracker ice cream, cinnamon churro, brownie crumble, chocolate-covered peanuts, cinnamon fudge and mixed berries. No one in the kitchen (or behind the bar, or, I suspect, in the offices of the DineAmic Group, the boisterous place’s owners) takes it too seriously, and that’s fine. There’s been plenty of attention paid to the rest of the menu, and especially to the cocktails. Perched at the corner of Clark and Kinzie streets, Barrio is the perfect place for its location. It’s a blast.
And tasty too. For this, their 10th spot, DineAmic Group owners Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson lured chef Katsuji Tanabe, a successful veteran of Top Chef and other TV shows and the owner of a kosher taqueria in Beverly Hills. His knack for mixing elevates the offerings. From the Robata Mexicana section of the menu, the diver scallop ($15) with chimichurri and habanero-uni butter is a treat. Twice, the mahimahi tacos did not impress, but the charred pork belly versions, with cucumber slaw and sesame chipotle aioli, are irresistible. With a Hot Mezz, a beguiling mix of Sombra mezcal, watermelon, jalapeno, lime and sage, or a Subourbonite (Basil Hayden, amaro Averna, peach nectar and a touch of lemon), I’d recommend the blue-crab taquitos. The five salsas are great with the fresh hot chips, and the guacamole is a crowd-pleaser, but the taquitos are more unusual and more fun. And that, of course, is what you’re here for.