If you are up for a lively night of animated talking and visiting with friends, then Cocina del Barrio on France Avenue is the place to go. I can’t remember when the atmosphere in a place was so upbeat. The bar situated in the front of the place was packed, but not too packed. Making my way through the crowd to the restaurant was easy. Since I was the first to arrive, I asked one of the staff if this was the only room for the restaurant. It was also almost full with happy people. He kindly said “yes.” I said, “There is a reservation.” I was politely taken back to the hostess stand, that I had missed on the way in, where the reservation was confirmed and I was taken to a roomy booth. The round, marble table was set with some attractive tableware. (It sparkled under the careful lighting.) The menus were at each place. Immediately, I looked at the menu whose titles for each stage of the meal were in Spanish. The menu had a variety of meats, fish and shellfish combined with tempting flavors. Something for everyone, I thought, but not your usual south of the border fare. Next when I checked out the drinks menu it was obvious that their signature drinks were many varieties of tequila – was that mescal on the menu? There was an extensive wine menu, which included champagnes. I opted for a beer. They had about fifteen varieties to choose from, including local standby brands.
The interior is notable for the sand-colored adobe walls that are accentuated by beam trimmed ceilings and doorways. The doorways’ beams join into a point (where was my camera?) A large chandelier, hung centrally to the room is a playful contrast to a partial wall of varied shades of red tiles over the servers’ area. The design is a very postmodern take of sleek and rustic contrasts. It works!
After everyone arrived and settled, (parking was difficult on Friday night) the server was attentive and patient. We were immediately served some chips (in an attractive ceramic bowl) with three different kinds of salsa – verde, habanera and a third that had some flavor that I couldn’t recognize. I jumped at the habanera salsa and was called a show off. Everyone tasted it. Only one person was surprised by the spiciness. It was spicy yet bearable, not crazy hot. We were catching up after not having seen each other, in my case, for many months. Someone asked the server for his recommendations, which he gladly shared.
I chose the chicken and black bean tostada with the mango habanera salsa. Others had the pork carnitas taco, grilled flatbread with tinga chicken, chicken tortilla soup and the potato sopas. Everyone was completely “happy” with their meal. It was just enough food and beautifully presented and I mean put together with great care. When the dishes were delivered, I had no doubt in my mind that this was going to be a special flavor treat. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It certainly reflected a “labor of love” for food.
Here’s a link to their face book page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cocina-del-Barrio/101373609911264 and their website. http://www.barriotequila.com/Barrio_Cocina.html retrieved February 5, 2011.
They have a small place on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis and another in Lowertown, St Paul.
Check it out.
Cocina del Barrio
5036 France Ave N Edina, MN 55410
Cross Street: 50th & France