A partnership between Jerry Kleiner and the Buonavolanto family, Barbakoa Modern Latin Bistro is slightly out of place in the suburbs, feeling more like a hip downtown restaurant than the typical fare usually found. The menu is puzzling at first, until you realize that there is a creativity and whimsy at work here – Chef Dudley Nieto has reinterpreted Latin cuisine through the lens of an outsider, respectful of, but not bound by traditions. Served semi-tapas style, with mostly shared plates being the plan, it’s a place to go have fun and not be too stuffy.
We dined on a relatively quiet Tuesday evening (though it was getting busier as we left), so hearing our waiter John explain the menu was easy enough. And what a menu it is. Tacos, ceviche, guacamole, and lots of meat slow cooked (hence barbakoa) – there are twists on pretty much everything (shrimp taco, pineapple laden guacamole, etc) and everything is really, really good. Order anything with the “B” denoting a “Barbakoa must have!” and you won’t go wrong. We enjoyed each and every dish and would order them again, except I’m betting that everything else on the menu is equally good.
Barbakoa is not just about food, however, with an extensive bar to support the food. With “Tacos and Tequila” prominently on the façade and a library of more than 100 tequilas, it makes sense to order that drink, and I highly recommend going with a flight or two to get the full experience (also, the “sangrita” that is served as a palate cleanser is out of this world tasty, I kind of wish they served full size glasses of it). The Barbakoa Margarita is worth ordering if you’re not into drinking tequila straight up, served with a side of Grand Marnier so you can adjust the taste to your liking (it’s a fantastic margarita that really showcases the Avion Reserva 44 Ultra Premium Extra Añejo which is used as the base). Don’t like tequila? (Probably just haven’t tried the good stuff.) Beer and wine are available, and I can personally vouch for the mojito, super minty and refreshing.
The restaurant is bright, colorful, open and, I’ll bet, pleasntly abuzz on a rockin’ weekend night. A large dining room has ample seating, with a separate room that is available for parties or as overflow for really busy times. The Lounge also has an additional adjoining room with its own personal bar, perfect for a party or group luncheon. The outdoors eating is clearly a patron fave, with its colorful seats and fireplace, and had the most people the night we were there.
Looking for something out of the ordinary out in the western suburbs of Chicago? Make your way over to Barbakoa Modern Latin Bistro and get ready for something unique and really tasty. Looking forward to returning and also the next partnership effort, which we hope is forthcoming in our neck of the woods.
This meal was provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.
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