BANKERS HILL. Barrio Star, located in Bankers Hill, is one of several restaurants created by Isabel Cruz. This means fun decor, smart servers, creative drinks, and the fusion of Latin and Asian cuisines. But Barrio Star is a curious example. At first glance, the menu suggests Mexican food. Then, a closer inspection reveals a broader swathe of Latin cuisine. When the food arrives, however, the subtle strokes of Asian influence reveal themselves in coconut sauces, marinated tofu, and other surprises. The result is a variety of bold dishes with complex and unique flavors.
Although there are separate menus for lunch and dinner, they both offer the same vegan options:
- Guacamole, salsa and homemade tortilla chips
- Sliced cucumbers
- Tofu Tacos
- Soy Chorizo Tacos
- Brazil Bowl
- Barrio Bowl
- Tamal de Maize
My favorite items on the menu are the “Bowls.” The Brazil Bowl and the Barrio Bowl are equally delicious, so I usually alternate (no hurt feelings this way). The Brazil Bowl (pictured below) offers coconut rice, black beans, mango salsa, coconut chili sauce, and steamed greens. The chili sauce plays a fun game the coconut and mango flavors, providing a special treat. The Barrio Bowl lays the same foundation – beans, rice, and steamed greens – but honors a more traditional Latin flavor with pico de gallo and cilantro lime sauce. Tofu can be added to both bowls.
Another great vegan option is the Tamal de Maize, which proves that the quality of the core ingredients is more important than loud bells and whistles. Here, we have a slightly sweetened corn tamale with roasted tomatillo sauce, served with beans, rice, and steamed greens. All flavors in balance. And very satisfying. It will make you wonder why most Mexican restaurants rely so heavily on cheese and other distractions.
Barrio Star provides an eclectic atmosphere. Blue walls and Christmas lights hung from the ceiling – why not? Back-lighting brings the bar to life, the seats are usually full, and the space is cozy. Somehow, it all works!
I would point out that the brunch menu does NOT have vegan options. However, happily customers are able to order from both the Lunch and Brunch menus on the weekends.
2706 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103