Barrio Taqueria & Tequila takes over the old Pearl Raw Bar space


What do Sammy Hagar, Nick Jonas and George Clooney have in common? Tequila company owners all. In Richmond, they are also represented in a tequila flight at Barrio, the latest eatery from the Richmond Restaurant Group.

The space that housed Pearl Raw Bar for six years has been replaced with Barrio Taqueria & Tequila and refreshed with a new look. Two glass-fronted garage doors replace the solid brick wall along Strawberry Street, filling the restaurant with light. Pearl’s tables have been refurbished and are now encircled with colorful metal chairs — yellow, blue, orange and red — and bar stools.

A colorful Ed Trask mural has been painted on the brick next to the bar, while a facing wall sports a mural advertising “Cerveza 5¢” executed by local muralist Caesar McGann. Both artists contributed to the images of agave plants throughout.

The back room has been converted into a lounge with the addition of a bar, love seats and cushy chairs and will be open Thursdays through Saturdays only until the restaurant is established. In addition to the private parties it’s known for, the upstairs room will see more dinner action nightly due to the loss of tables in the lounge.

Most striking of all, the kitchen is now enclosed in a vintage silver Airstream trailer, the interior of which had to be stripped down to the metal frame and cut into sections to fit into the limited space. Once fitted around the kitchen, it was riveted back together. Unexpectedly, the back end of the trailer shows up between the kitchen and the lounge.
The motivation for a shift in focus came from the limited size of the eatery’s nucleus.

“For such a big space, we’ve got a very small kitchen and dish room, so we wanted to do something easier for assembling food,” explains Richmond Restaurant Group co-owner Jared Golden. “This menu requires far fewer pans than Pearl did, making the space function much better.” On that menu are starters like tuna tostada and nachos, a dozen kinds of tacos including three vegetarian options, and a “not taco” section offering tortas, salad and burritos.

Golden says the cocktail list was built for speed, no surprise given how busy the place gets on Friday and Saturday nights when a DJ spins regularly. Eight of the dozen cocktails are tequila-based, including a soft-serve margarita made with the sorbet of the day, currently lime. Wine, beer and agua frescas provide options, including a reminder on the menu that you can add a spirit of your choice to any of the nonalcoholic beverages.

But it’s tequila that gets the starring role with more than 45 listed now and more to come. The tequila menu is broken down into blanco, aged less than 60 days, reposado, aged 60 days to a year, and anejo, which is aged one to three years in oak barrels. Five tequila flights, like the Celebrities on the Shelf flight already mentioned, are available with each one featuring a blanco, a reposado and an anejo.

Currently, Barrio is only serving dinner, with a Saturday and Sunday brunch tentatively scheduled to start Feb. 15.

“We’ll add lunch once we get fully staffed up,” Golden says.

Barrio Taqueria & Tequila
2229 W. Main St.