Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s most ambitious effort opens today, June 3rd, 2016 and if you didn’t make your reservations like we suggested, well, we told you so.
The four-time James Beard award nominee is set to call the blossoming Grand Avenue arts community her new home for Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva
, where she’ll serve her elevated brand of Mexican cooking known famously across the nation.
And prime dinner hour reservations are booked out for weeks . . .
Unlike Any Other
One of the country’s foremost authorities on bold, regional Mexican cooking, Salcido Esparza has established a gilded reputation since opening the doors to the original Barrio Cafe
on 16th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix in 2002.
At Gran Reserva, her eighth concept, Salcido Esparza aims to create her most high-minded dinner experience yet, offering multi-course tasting menus ($35-$60) with a heavy emphasis on special, one-night-only menu additions.
More than eight months of research and international travel went into building the menu, and these explorations have yielded an incredible ingredient arsenal exclusive to Gran Reserva.
Chef Silvana will grind her own single-source heirloom corn for masa, source live shrimp from Baja waters and cook with more than 23 types of dried chilies, two of which can’t be found anywhere else in Phoenix. She’s also discovered sources for hard-to-find tastes such as tejocote, a crab apple-tasting Mexican fruit, and xoconostle, a prickly pear-like cactus fruit found in regional cooking.
Regional ingredients and legacy recipes will receive Salcido Esparza’s signature European-approach, using French-style cooking techniques to transform territorial cooking into unique creations all her own.
Expect both a daily steak and fish special as well as more than six varieties of housemade chorizos. Touches of truffle also dot the menu, while fresh, bright crudos and tatakis let pristine seafood shine.
“But don’t worry,” says chef. “There will be salt and pepper shakers on those table cloths,” nodding to the polished, yet comfy vibe of the old diner.
Historic Pie Factory With Skyline Views
Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva boasts 27 cozy seats in a wedge-shaped dining room pointed directly toward a glittering, big-city view of Downtown Phoenix.
Originally built as Bragg’s Pie Factory, the historically registered flatiron building was most recently known as Bragg’s Factory Diner. Now, Gran Reserva is paying homage the former bakery with Salcido Esparza’s own ancestral roots, where her family once held court as the official pastry chefs for medieval Spain’s royal family.
“Every seat in the house has an amazing view,” the chef said. “This funky factory is wrapped by urban art plus skyscraper views.”
Want a front-row seat to the kitchen action? Then ask for Pinky’s Table – a bar-height perch tucked neatly near the cook’s line, where the sights and frenzy of the chefs in action can be experienced without obstruction.
Mezcal & Mexican Wines
What might be a trend spirit across the nation has always been a go-to for Chef Silvana. At Gran Reserva, mezcals, either neat or serving as the stars of cocktails, will pair up with dishes alongside a strong, studious list of boutique Mexican wines – many of which can’t be found anywhere in Arizona.
Born in Los Angeles, California, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza grew up in nearby Merced, surrounded by the largest agricultural growing region in the world – the San Joaquin Valley. Raised in a family whose rich ancestral heritage dates back to medieval Spain, where they once held court as the official pastry chefs for the country’s royal family, the Salcido eventually emigrated to the New World (Mexico) in the 1600s, and generations later, California. It was in the San Joaquin Valley area that Silvana’s joint Salcido and Esparza family legacy of cooking and pastry-making was cemented again, where the family owned and operated 23 prominent local bakeries selling hard-to-find Mexican staples, baked goods, and homemade tortillas to both to their American neighbors and the waves of migrant workers in the region’s booming agricultural industry. Eventually finding her path to Arizona, Salcido Esparza herself took the family’s culinary baton, opening up the celebrated Barrio Cafe in central Phoenix in 2002. The nationally lauded eatery continues to this day to serve elevated Mexican cuisine made with her special flair, and it is now undeniably revered as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city.
Since 2002, Chef Silvana has been nominated four times for the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious award for Best Chef Southwest. She was also inducted into Arizona’s Culinary Hall of Fame in 2004.
Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva is located at 1301 W. Grand Ave. in Phoenix. They will be open from 11am until 10pm Tuesday through Thursday, 11am until 10:30pm on Friday and Saturday and from 11am until 9pm on Sunday. You can make your reservations online
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© Taryn Jeffries 2016