For those of you who don't know, the guys responsible for Trattoria Centrale (aka Zaza) have just opened a Mexican street food restaurant on 2nd Ave North. Here's the online menu for those who want to peruse: http://www.elbarriobirmingham.com./
Currently, El Barrio is just open for lunch (11-3), but will soon extend their hours to include dinner six nights a week. The renovation to the building is fantastic. If nothing else, the restaurant will be a great place for an after-work margarita simply because of the atmosphere/location.
I went for lunch a few days ago, and ordered the duo of salsas, a taco carnitas, and a taco al pastor. The salsas were fairly typical: one was red, tomato-based; the other green, tomatillo-based. The salsas were chunky, and clearly fresh. But despite the freshness, the red salsa was still nothing more than a tomato mush (with a hint of cilantro). There was not an ounce of heat. The green salsa had a subtle flavor, but not worth the calories.
The tacos were a definite improvement. The al pastor was absolutely delicious and had a nice kick. I will be back for that one. The carnitas was solid. Service was slow, but that's to be expected during any restaurant's first week.
Despite the weak salsas, I will definitely return. I'm intrigued by some of the more inventive items on the menu, and the tacos are the best in the immediate area. And, hopefully, El Barrio will work out some of the kinks as they get in the swing of the things.