GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Barrio Tacos is set to open its first restaurant in Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission on Thursday approved plans to open Barrio at 37 Ottawa Ave NW. The table service restaurant will have a fenced outdoor patio just steps from the Van Andel Arena.

“This is exactly the type of development that made me want to live downtown in the first place. To be able to walk to these places and see the excitement,” said planning commissioner Christopher Germain. “I’ve walked this particular alley and always wondered why there wasn’t more stuff here, to be honest. The way it’s designed there is clearly meant to be more on-going, so I’m incredibly supportive of that.

The planning commission also allowed Barrio to sell branded and sealed liquor for offsite consumption.

Construction of the new restaurant is nearing completion, according to Barrio owner Jake Hawley.

“That’s the fun part. It’s just seeing it come to life, especially with our style with the murals. It’s seeing the steps of the restaurant come together. I love the planning aspect, and then the rewarding part is to see all the hard work pay off and for it all to come to life,” he said during a site visit with News 8 on Thursday morning.

Barrio’s team of artists began working on the walls this week. Their murals depict a celebration of life with skeletal figures included as a nod to the Day of the Dead. Hawley said the scene of a band playing behind the bar is a tribute to Grand Rapids’ arts culture and the entertainment district in which the restaurant is located.

“’Barrio’ actually means neighborhood. We love being part of a neighborhood and complementing the businesses around us and giving people an added reason to make our neighborhoods a destination for a dining experience,” Hawley said.

(A photo from February 24, 2022 shows the historic building on Ottawa Avenue NW in downtown Grand Rapids where Barrio Tacos will be located.)

He says Barrio also values ​​using local ingredients as much as possible on his menu, which revolves around a concept of build-your-own tacos. Customers choose from a list of shells, toppings, sauces, cheeses and protein options, including flank steak, short rib, pulled pork and seafood.

Despite rising food prices and supply issues, Barrio is still offering free fries and salsa. Hawley says each six-inch taco starts at $3.50, with the average taco costing between $4.50 and $5.

“It’s all about quality and a good price, especially these days,” Hawley said. “It’s the kind of neighborhood and bar vibe we want to be – we want people to come all the time and not break the bank.”

Like other Barrio locations, the restaurant in Grand Rapids will feature a bar stocked with potentially more than 100 premium tequilas that staff will also use for craft cocktails and margaritas. The new venue will also feature handcrafted metalwork, including an illuminated bar facade and star-shaped lights.

concrete patio to the left of the glass and brick building
(This Feb. 24, 2022 photo shows the Barrio Tacos patio, which will include landscaping, planters, lounge chairs and a fire pit.)

The Barrio of Grand Rapids can accommodate approximately 130 people indoors and another 60 outdoors. Hawley’s vision for the patio includes landscaping, planters, lounge furniture, a fire pit and string lights with a potential mural, pending proper approvals. He says contractors are on track to add a garage door that will open to the patio in June.

“It’s the only construction related thing (which) due to supply chain issues (with) the glass and some of the metal (bespoke)…we’re seeing big delays,” he said. -he declares.

Hawley aims to open the new Barrio in May. He plans to start hiring the 60 to 80 hourly workers the restaurant will need as early as next month.

Barrio hours will depend on staffing, but Hawley wants to be open until 1 a.m. every day. The restaurant will serve the dinner crowd Monday through Thursday with expanded lunch and brunch hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

This will be Barrio’s third location in Michigan. Hawley opened a restaurant in Traverse City last year after bringing Barrio to East Lansing in 2020.

“Even with the interesting roller coaster of a ride we went on, it was a resounding success,” Hawley said of her first restaurant.

Hawley has also signed on to open a Barrio Tacos at Adelaide Pointe in Muskegon Lake – a $250 million redevelopment that is also expected to include a boat dealership, marina, condominiums and parks.

“I really think it’s going to be a destination. I think it’s going to attract not only people from the Muskegon area, but also voters from across the west side of the state and even people from Grand Rapids. It just has that kind of cool wow factor that we really go for,” Hawley said.

If the appropriate state approvals are coming soon, Adelaide Pointe co-founder Ryan Leestma plans to begin work this year on the marina and mixed-use building that would house Barrio. Hawley hopes the Muskegon restaurant will open in the spring or summer of 2023.

“The more we talked, the more we really bought into the vision of Ryan and his team and we’re just thrilled to be a part of it,” Hawley said.

Hawley is also researching potential sites for a Kalamazoo restaurant. If all goes well, he says the location could open by the end of this year.

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