bARRIO

Photo: Barrio

Owned by local restaurateur Jeff Mathes, who also owns Due Amici, Barrio opened in March of 2009. The tapas bar and lounge is open seven days a week and serves brunch, lunch and dinner. The menu features dishes from South America and Spain in a warm, neighborhood bar atmosphere. The wine menu is inspired by Argentina and Chile.

The new Express Lunch menu offers a wide variety of entrees to choose from, and sides including soup, salad, fries or chips and pico. Most items are around $10, making them a good value. I would recommend the fries, as they are deliciously drizzled with a sherry vinegar aioli, garlic and herbs. They are mouthwatering good.

My favorite menu item is the chorizo and manchego meatballs; I have been know to eat more than a few plates in one sitting. With any order you receive fresh bread that comes from North Market merchant Omega Artisan Baking , paired with a sweet creamy butter made with agave syrup and a side of ancho chili oil.

Another dish I recommend is the crab and almond empanada, a favorite of many of my coworkers. If you are up for something different, try the charred sirloin steak with sweet potato puree and crumbled cabrales cheese - what a pleasant surprise this pairing was.

Whether you work downtown and want a new place for client lunches, want to change up your local happy hour spot to meet new people, or need a new spot to meet up with friends after work, Barrio offers plenty of exploratory food options, great drinks and a comfortable, laid back atmosphere that invites you to stay a while.

Things to Know Before You Go

Happy Hour : Daily from 4-7:30 p.m. includes $2 Red Stripe and $2 Modelo as well as ½ off pitchers of rum punch, house sangria, margaritas and mojitos. Make sure you arrive early to get a seat in the bar - if you are sitting in the restaurant area, you can't get the happy hour specials.

2 for Tuesdays : Two tapas for the price of one. This can be one of anything listed under the small plates or the traditional and original small plates sections of the menu, giving you about 20 items to choose from.

Reggae Sundays : From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. you can get the chef’s special paella for $5, $2 Red Stripe and ½ off pitchers of rum punch, house sangria, margaritas and mojitos.  There's reggae music from DJ Madd Mike from 3-7 p.m. and CD101’s DJ Trevor from 7-9 p.m.

Valet parking is available at night for $5.

A giveaway!

Barrio will give away a 5-course chef's tapas tasting for four people to one lucky reader. To enter: Comment on this post and name at least one item that you'd order during a visit to Barrio (check out menus here ) . Your comment must be posted by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15 - after that time, we'll select a random commenter to win.

UPDATE: The entry period has ended. Congratulations to our winner, Rachel Lewis!