Cocina del Barrio opens in Edina

A bigger, badder Barrio?

With its red-and-black color scheme and bull-themed decor, the new Cocina del Barrio in downtown Edina looks a lot like its sister tequila bars in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, right down to the gothic candelabra drowning in drippy white wax. But the third of Ryan Burnet and Tim Rooney's Barrios adds the Spanish word for kitchen, cocina, to its name, emphasizing its expanded food menu. This restaurant is, first and foremost, a place to eat—and maybe have a tequila shot or two.

Cocina del Barrio, which is the first restaurant Burnet and Rooney have launched after their partnership with La Belle Vie founders Tim McKee and Josh Thoma dissolved, tailors their original concept to a broader, suburban clientele. It inhabits the former Coldwell Banker Burnet office building at 50th and France (Ryan Burnet's father, Ralph, heads the company), which seems to indicate that, while real estate around the metro may still be struggling, restaurants, or at least the ones at this intersection, are booming.

The new restaurant is the largest of the three Barrios, with about 180 seats currently available and more to arrive outside when weather permits. It's populated with several funky artworks, including a bright exterior mural and, inside, two bulls on a glittery background and an abstract metal bull's head. There's a three-sided bar in front, a dining room with an open kitchen in the middle, and a private dining table in back that seats up to 18 diners who can sequester themselves behind a heavy pair of sliding doors.

Barrio ups the ante: Wood-grilled achiote chicken with black beans and sweet plantains
Alma Guzman
Barrio ups the ante: Wood-grilled achiote chicken with black beans and sweet plantains
Alma Guzman

Location Info

Map

Cocina Del Barrio

5036 France Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55410

Category: Restaurant > Latin American

Region: Edina

Details

Cocina del Barrio
5036 France Ave. S., Edina,
952.920.1860; www.barriotequilabar.com
appetizers $4-14; entrées $18-$26

In spite of Cocina's vast size, diners who arrive at, say, 6:30 p.m. midweek might face more than a half-hour wait as after-work drinkers and early diners quickly fill the tables. Edina women are known for their aggressive accessorizing, and there is no shortage of glitz-embellished shirts and jeans, glimmering jewelry, and shiny handbags at Cocina. Surely the George Clooney-esque bartender would be the subject of much whispered discussion if the volume of the music and conversation allowed for anything other than shouting.

Besides the old 24-hour Perkins at Highway 100, Cocina stays open later than any other Edina eatery, serving until midnight or beyond six nights a week and until 11 p.m. on Sundays. It's the first real "bar bar" to arrive in the once-dry city—or certainly the biggest and chicest spot with a 1 a.m. liquor license. (It's also, evidently, Edina's first real foray into the cuisine of Spanish-speakers. Notes from the City Council meeting at which the restaurant's liquor license was approved refer to the business by the name of its Italian alter ego, "Cucina del Barrio.")

A Barrio restaurant wouldn't be a Barrio without an extensive tequila list, and at Cocina pours come in two sizes: the Deadwood, which is a regular shot glass filled to the brim, and the Barrio, a more slender flute that deceptively delivers about twice as much alcohol. Entry-level tequila drinkers might order the Milagro ($4 a Deadwood) in its blanco, reposado, and anejo forms to understand how the spirit's character gets softer and richer as it ages. The beverage menu offers several fruity sippers called "compadres" to chase the spirit, but both times I tried to order anything beyond the blood orange soda or Fanta, the bar was out of the ones I requested.

The lack of inventory likely doesn't concern most of the diners who'd rather drink wine or cocktails. The wine list has been lengthened and several new cocktails have been added, including a couple of classic mixes that substitute tequila for the expected alcohol. Both the Bloody Maria and the Javier Wallbanger are fun—and surprisingly tasty—variations on their vodka-based cousins. If you'd rather have something more exotic, the Jimadore Vacation, a lemon-lime blend with coconut rum, smells like suntan lotion and tastes like it should be sipped on a beach.

Cocina's menu was designed by chef Bill Fairbanks, who helped develop the fare for the original Barrio and now oversees all three kitchens. Many of the Latin American street food specialties overlap with those at the other locations, but Fairbanks has added several lighter, more healthful items, such as seafood dishes and salads. Edina's cake eaters now must prefer lobster ceviche.

Barrio defined itself with a fine-dining spin on casual, south-of-the-border fare, relying on careful ingredient sourcing and painstaking prep work to lend its dishes brighter flavors and more visual elegance than those at the typical taqueria. The repeated small plates are just as good as those at the other two restaurants. Guacamole is made with avocado mashed at perfect ripeness and comes with hand-cut tortilla chips that are thick and crispy, oil-soaked without being greasy. Such careful execution justifies spending $7 on something you'd be perfectly capable of whipping up at home. The chicken and black bean tostada, which vanishes in a few rich, crunchy bites, is a familiar item from the other Barrio menus, as are several of the tacos (neither the tongue tacos or the hard-shelled, ground beef-filled "gringo" tacos made the cut at Cocina). The fish taco also remains a favorite: Mahi mahi is delicately fried in a beer-batter suit and served on two corn tortillas speckled with cabbage, cucumber, and tomato.

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2 comments
Angie
Angie

Yay, another establishment to employ minimum wage "bottom feeders" to serve the mouths firmly implanted with silver spoons. That's not a diss to the peeps in the service industry. I once worked for a wealth counseling agency and one of the douches from a neighboring office likened these "bottom feeders" to people who eat at Subway and shop at Walmart. Both of which I do on a regular basis. Hard luck to find a Whole Foods or Sushi Bar up here in Cambridge. I could shove my Club Card far up his bottom feeder.

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

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