I just returned from the most wonderful brunch – the kind of meal that has me floating on a chorizo bacon flavored cloud all day long. Barrio (Capitol Hill, Bellevue) just launched a weekend brunch menu, and it’s nothing short of fabulous. In addition to a few soon-to-be classic dishes (which we’ll get to in a minute), Barrio’s brunch offers an excellent selection of signature cocktails to kick off your morning.
I tried The Bee’s Knees ($8, pictured left) which is a delightful mixture of gin, fireweed honey and lemon. Honestly, I could have put back a whole pitcher of this cool, delicious cocktail. An unusual but welcome item on the cocktail menu, El Borracho ($9), consists of a can of Olympia beer, a shot of tequila, and a hot sauce chaser. I suppose if you really need to erase the night before, it’ll do the trick.
But, it was the food at Barrio’s brunch that really blew me away. To start, we sampled a selection of conchas (mexican sweet buns) served with whipped butter. Then we snacked on a duo of salsas ($7), which allowed us to choose 2 out of 6 different generously-portioned salsas served alongside corn chips. Since I’m not much of a fire-breather, I opted for the roasted tomatillo serrano salsa and the grape tomato salsa. Both were richly fresh, with surprisingly complex flavors. They made me sad to think I had ever wasted time eating salsa from a jar, ever.
Once I realized what a treat I was in for, I decided to leave my main dish order in the very capable hands of our server. Reading the innocuous menu descriptions, like “Chilaquiles del Dia – tortilla casserole of the day,” vastly understated the caliber of thought and craftsmanship that clearly went into each dish. This morning’s “casserole” was a crunchy, slightly sweet mixture of shredded pork, apples and tortillas, topped with a pair of perfectly cooked eggs and sprinkle of cotija cheese ($10, pictured right). Each bite was heavenly, and only improved by adding a dash of house-made hot sauce, coarse salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. Other must-orders include the cantina potatoes ($3) and the housemade chorizo bacon($3, amazing!).
Overall, I was really struck by the superb quality with which Barrio executed brunch. From the clearly passionate kitchen staff, to the professional wait staff, to the bartender, everyone there exuded a commitment to the art of a great dining experience. And nothing speaks louder to Barrio’s commitment to detail than the picture on the left. It’s just a glass of water, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that it contains perfectly clear, perfectly square ice cubes. As it turns out, Barrio is one of only two establishments in Washington that uses a state-of-the-art ice maker to produce perfect cubes with a slower melt rate so your drinks aren’t diluted after 5 minutes on the table (the other place that uses this machine is Vessel). It’s a small but telling touch: Barrio isn’t messing around! And with a brunch that, in my opinion, eclipses Peso’s Kitchen, I would make your reservations while you still can. This is the new it spot for weekend mornings!