Another Mexican-style restaurant will open near Ohio State’s campus and feature build-your-own-tacos and free chips and salsa. Credit: Courtesy of Barrio Tacos

Another Mexican-style restaurant will open near Ohio State’s campus and feature build-your-own-tacos and free chips and salsa. Credit: Courtesy of Barrio Tacos

A touch of Cleveland’s food scene is migrating south with the opening of yet another Mexican-style restaurant near Ohio State’s campus.

Barrio Tacos, a popular taco and tequila joint that dons a Day of the Dead theme in northeast Ohio, as well as in locations in Michigan and New Hampshire, is coming to Columbus, according to a May 12 press release.

Due to challenges presented by COVID-19, the restaurant has yet to specify an opening date. However, Barrio is closely following Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidelines and will open this year when it can operate at full capacity, a Barrio spokesperson said.

“Seeing that Barrio is the original build-your-own-taco brand, we are a brand that many in the Columbus area have wanted to see come here for a while,” Sean Fairbairn, co-owner of Barrio Tacos, said in a press release. “It’s the next natural step. Cleveland and Columbus are sister cities and the cross over and synergy is undeniable.”

With just a pencil and paper, Barrio-goers can craft their own unique $3 build-your-own tacos with a myriad of toppings, including Coca-Cola marinated steak, pan-seared portobellos, pineapple salsa and Carolina reaper hot sauce, according to its website.

Listed among the top 10 taco stands in the U.S. according to Gayot, a dining guide website, Cleveland-native Ohio State students are eager to get their free chips and salsa on among the restaurant’s hand-painted murals and steelwork crafted by local artisans.

Barrio-goers may recognize a strong resemblance to Columbus’ Condado Tacos in the restaurant’s menu and interior design, as Condado’s current owner, Joe Kahn, was co-creator of Barrio before cutting ties with the restaurant and establishing Condado.

Eric Ulchaker, a fourth-year in operations management, often frequents the Barrio location in Lakewood, Ohio while not living in Columbus, Ohio, and said he is eager to check out the Columbus location when it opens.

His go-to order of build-your-own tacos with double steak, mild and hot salsa, along with a side of queso blanco and a lime margarita is unparalleled, he said.

“There’s no restaurant really like it in Cleveland. They definitely set themselves apart and market themselves more toward college students,” Ulchaker said. “You’ll hear your friends say ‘Hey, let’s get Barrio tonight.’ It’s a common place to meet up at 11 p.m.”

Although Ulchaker is unsure how Barrio will compete with other campus-area Mexican-style restaurants, like Cazuela’s and Condado, he said he is excited to have more options.

Barrio Tacos is opening its doors in Columbus at 1416 W. Fifth Ave. The restaurant is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday. 

“Barrio means neighborhood and the location at the corner of Grandview Ave is the perfect neighborhood and city for Barrio to plant our Columbus taco flag,“ Fairbairn said.

Correction: A previous version of this story listed the address of Barrio as 1416 W. Fifth St. in Grandview Heights due to an error in the press release. The address and city have since been corrected and quotes from the release have been updated per the new release.