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With Pan-Latin Influences and a Robata Grill, Barrio Will Defy Genres

The food comes from a Top Chef alum whose resume includes a kosher taqueria.

Katsuji Tanabe   Photo: Bravo Media LCC

From the same Japanese-Mexican chef who conceived the all-kosher taqueria comes Chicago’s first Mexican/pan-Latin (with a touch of American) restaurant with a robata grill.

Really.

It’s called Barrio (65 W. Kinzie St., River North), and it will open this summer as the latest project from Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson of DineAmic group. The duo also operates Siena Tavern (which is in the same building as Barrio), Bar Siena, Prime & Provisions, and Public House.

Barrio’s chef is Katsuji Tanabe, a Top Chef and Chopped alum who has cooked in some high-profile L.A. restaurants and developed the kosher taqueria Mexikosher. Stoioff and Rekhson came across Tanabe—who dubs himself “a Japanese guy with a Mexican accent”—last year at Taste of Los Angeles, where he was cooking (of course) tacos: “We were already pretty full, but we looked at each other and said, ‘These are some of the best tacos we have ever had,’” Stoioff says.

The two kept in touch with their new friend, and over the past several months, the three melded Tanabe’s heritage and experience with Stoioff and Rekhson’s knowledge of the Chicago market. That’s how the genre-defying concept for Barrio was born.

The menu will range from traditional Mexican dishes and tacos, American standards (i.e. burgers), and robata-grilled proteins such as guajillo-glazed Berkshire pork belly and diver scallops with poblano-uni relish.

No DineAmic project would be complete without a serious nightlife component. At Barrio, the focal point of the 6,000-square-foot space will be its oval-shaped bar: Its giant, perforated metal beams will extend to both the main dining room and the outdoor seating area. Drink-wise, expect lots of mezcal-based cocktails and slushy spiked horchata.

If you’re struggling to wrap your head around the concept, think of it as a Spanish-speaking Siena Tavern. “[For Siena Tavern and Bar Siena] we tried to create Italian restaurants where you did not have to be in the mood for Italian to eat at,” he says. At Barrio, they’re employing that same something-for-everyone formula: “You want tacos? Fine. Something lighter and not necessarily Mexican? You can have that, too,” he says.

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