The 4th Street, Retro Row, area of Long Beach has been growing in the past few years. A number of new restaurants and businesses have popped up next to long time staples like Portfolio and Lolas. This week another new restaurant is joining the ranks: El Barrio Cantina. Nestled in a beautifully renovated building, the ambiance of the eatery is impeccable. Garage style windows roll up, letting in the cool evening air and adding to the open air concept of the space. The mix of pastels and earth tone furniture looks modern with a vintage flair. Everything in the restaurant feels incredibly well thought out and the menu is no different. You will find a mix of modern takes on old favorites and completely unique plates. Potato Tacos are a staple on any south of the border menu, and the Tacos de Papa did not disappoint. This simple dish is noteworthy for its delicious simplicity. Crispy tacos filled with seasoned potatoes and topped with house-made Salsa de Aguacate. Another must try item on the “Snacks” portion of the menu is the Cauli Esquite, a lighter version of the classic esquite made with cauliflower and Salsa de Cilantro.
The “Crudo and Temaki” section had some of the most delicious seafood I had in awhile. Everything about the Tuna Macha DIY Temaki was delicious, fresh Tuna mixed with Macha Salsa and served over perfectly cooked sticky rice. Without a doubt, my favorite dish of the night was the Peruvian Scallops. These scallops are not only served in a beautiful way, the delicate flavors were a perfect combination of spicy and refreshing. Six Peruvian Scallops marinated in Aguachile Rojo and topped with Avocado, Cucumbers, and Radish. The mingling of the flavors was divine, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like it and will definitely be returning to order these again.
The main dishes were absolute showstoppers. You can tell just by seeing one plate that time and effort goes into the plating of each dish. Whoever cultivated this menu clearly took the old saying “you eat first with your eyes” seriously and it’s greatly appreciated. People could not stop talking about the Mexican Hot Fried Chicken, and for good reason. Crispy Fried Chicken in a spicy Miel de Piloncillo sauce perched on top of a delicious slice of Cornbread. The sauce had just a bite of heat that balanced perfectly with the sweet cornbread and juicy chicken thigh. This dish is beautiful to look at and tastes even better than you could imagine. If you are looking to impress your dinner date, you have to order the Carne Asada Beef Rib. The massive piece of beef is served alongside guacamole, salsa, house-made tortillas and of course the bone itself. After removing the bone, the meat is fall apart tender and you can build a taco or just dive in with a fork and knife.
El Barrio Cantina is not to be missed. The food is unlike anything else in the area and the cocktails pair perfectly with each dish. One of the things that surprised me the most was how affordable the menu is. This is more than just a special occasion restaurant and will definitely be a new neighborhood hang out. If you can, check out their grand opening November 12th!