Look What’s Coming to Barrio East Lansing

You are on eastlansinginfo.org, ELi's old domain, which is now an archive of news (as of early April, 2020). If you are looking for the latest news, go to eastlansinginfo.news and update your bookmarks accordingly!


Saturday, January 18, 2020, 2:50 pm
Alice Dreger

On a tip from an ELi reader who lives downtown, ELi photojournalist Raymond Holt and I stopped in to Barrio Tacos yesterday to see if we could bring you a sneak-peek at the space.

There we ran into executive chef and operating partner Anthony Carano, who moved from Cleveland (the home of Barrio Tacos) to East Lansing in July to work on this restaurant.

Just as the reader had described, a dramatic Day of the Dead-themed mural covers the walls and columns of the high-ceilinged space, with artful metalwork following the same theme.

The Barrio team is aiming to make the food and drink just as creative.

“We really bring the art into our food and drink so that it all comes together as one cohesive vision,” explained Carano.

The team is expecting the East Lansing location to open in mid-February, “pending final inspections and hiring and training” of staff. [UPDATE: The opening date has been announced as March 9 at 4 p.m.]

Barrio will enliven the new Center City retail space on Albert Avenue, where so far the only other business to open has been Foster Coffee. (A representative from Jolly Pumpkin told ELi this week that that brewpub/restaurant, also set for the new Albert Avenue strip, is now expected to open this summer.) The retail strip produces rent for the City as part of the public-private Center City deal.

There’s no doubt that the feel of the emerging Barrio space is dramatic and high-energy.

“You can feel the brushstrokes on the wall when you touch it with your hands,” Carano said.

He pointed out various skeletal characters on the wall, noting that the whole scene depicts a barbeque wedding. On one wall, a band is playing instruments and dancing; on another, a group of friends plays beer pong.

One woman character, Carano pointed out, is “like our Mona Lisa,” in that she seems to be following a viewer as the viewer moves through the room.

The art is done by one man, Michael McNamara. “Mac” has provided similar artwork for all the Barrio Tacos locations, from Ohio to New Hampshire, and now East Lansing.

In addition to the wall paintings, McNamara is providing custom metal work, including light fixtures made from wheels and small skulls that adorn the stairwell bannister.

Carano explained that the art refers to the inspiration for the cuisine, which he describes as Americanized Mexican food.

Customers will be able to order tacos and taco bowls using bubble-sheet slips, choosing from among a list of specialty taco shells, various proteins, and cheese options. There will also be some appetizers available.

The restaurant will serve a wide variety of tequilas and whiskeys, with half-off whiskeys on Wednesdays, “so you can come in and try something more top-shelf,” said Carano.

In warmer weather, patrons will be able to sit at outdoor tables along the sidewalk and just inside the covered pedestrian space that runs from Albert Avenue to the alley near the back door of Target. Railing will be installed around the tables to meet regulations about putting dividers between alcohol-consuming diners and people walking by.

The garage-style doors that divide the outdoor seating areas from the interior can be rolled up.

Carano said the space will feel energized not only by the paintings and metalwork but by custom neon signs and upbeat music.

“‘Barrio’ translates to ‘neighborhood,’ and that’s what we go for,” Carano said. He wants the place to feel like a warm “sacred heart” of the neighborhood.

You can see all of Ray Holt’s photos in high resolution at this link. Feel free to download and share them. Please link back to this article so people can read about what’s coming.


Want to ask ELi to find something out, or want to share a tip? Contact us!

eastlansinginfo.org © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info