A taco and tequila bistro in Downers Grove
Short Rib Sliders
Photo courtesy of Barbakoa
Since its inception in 2013, Barbakoa Tacos and Tequila in Downers Grove has built a reputation as a reliable go-to place for contemporary Latin American cuisine.
The popular taqueria doesn’t veer far from the mainstream. Popular menu items include fajitas, enchiladas, tacos and paella. Barbakoa’s kitchen does a good job with these and other traditional dishes.
The restaurant has an urban vibe that attracts all ages, from parents with toddlers to millennials. Chandeliers with Edison bulbs and large windows light up the place. And an attentive wait staff works to keep customers happy.
A recent Saturday night dinner started with colorful black, red and plain corn chips which came with two dipping sauces — a spicy salsa verde and an almost-sweet tomato-based sauce.
Guacamole fans will enjoy sharing the traditional version featuring mashed avocado mixed harmoniously with tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro.
Other starters to consider among the dozen listed are tostada nachos; shrimp ceviche; and quesadilla (with an upcharge for tinga chicken, steak or picadillo).
One can make a meal from the broad selection of tacos, and that’s exactly what we did. Pescado al Pastor starred fresh mahi-mahi that was marinated in a mild adobo sauce, sautéed and served nested in flour tortillas topped with pineapple. White rice and blac beans accompanied.
Meanwhile, a tablemate opted for chicken enchiladas — three to a serving — as her main course. Despite a daub of red sauce added for flavor, the chicken itself was a bit on the dry side.
In contrast, another diner in our party praised the arrachera asada, a flavorful 10-oz skirt steak. The savory specialty, prepared in an Argentinean fashion, was well seasoned and flawlessly executed.
A handful of desserts are brought on a tray to the table, but the one to keep your eye on is the Mexican churros (a/k/a crullers). The hard-to-resist pastry goes well with the two accompanying sauces, caramel and chocolate.
Barbakoa offers a shared tasting menu that requires a two-person minimum. Details are posted on the restaurant’s website.
Paella is available at dinnertime Friday through Sunday, just be prepared to allow a 30- to 35-minute cooking wait time. Three iterations of this rice dish include seafood, meat and vegetarian.
A well-stocked bar has all the bases covered from sangria and signature cocktails to wine and beer.
When it comes to tequila, Barbakoa shines. Don’t hesitate to try the Fuerte Margarita made with tequila, hand-squeezed lime juice and agave nectar.
Tequila flights provide a tasty opportunity to anyone interested in exploring this spirit in one sitting. The number of different tequilas on hand is 100.
Other things you should know about Barbakoa: Live music is booked on Saturday nights, and a weekend brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
1341 Butterfield Rd., Downers Grove
Guacamole, mahi-mahi tacos, arrachera asada.
Starters: $9 to $13
Mon - Thur 11 a.m. - 10 a.m.; Fri 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sat 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sun 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Reservations, Wi-Fi, weekend brunch, live music on Saturdays.