“There’s millions of combinations that you can create yourself, so it’s fun, it’s interactive for our guests,” said Jake Hawley, Director of Operations for Barrio. “The food quality is very fresh.”
The group responsible for much of the Center City District, Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, became familiar with Barrio when working on projects in Cleveland. Impressed with the restaurant, they approached them with the proposition of opening an East Lansing location.
“[With] their unique brand of food and their experience and the artwork that they’re going to incorporate, it was really a natural fit to say, ‘Hey, you know, we’re doing something really exciting, really innovative in East Lansing. Do you want to be a part of it?’” Steve Willobee, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations for Harbor Bay, said.
On Aug. 29, Barrio offered a trial tasting to the residents of Landmark Apartments, another one of Harbor Bay’s projects located in Center City. The feedback was positive.
“They dipped it in cheese, which I’ve never seen before,” said Ryan Beaver, a Michigan State women’s and gender studies and pre-law student. “It has all the toppings.”
With Center City located just off campus, Willobee hopes Barrio is a part of a culture that bonds Michigan State with downtown East Lansing.
“You can just park and you can just walk and enjoy being in an environment where it really creates that true downtown feeling." Willobee said. "Then when you’re done enjoying that, you go over and catch a football game, you go over to the Broad Art Museum, you go to the Wharton.”
For Barrio, the decision to expand to East Lansing wasn’t a hard one.
“We learned a little more about the project and the campus and the city and everything that is going on here,” Hawley said. “It was just a no-brainer for us.”
One of the unique features of the restaurant is the mural-covered walls. The first location opened in Tremont neighborhood, which is an art-centric community in Cleveland. So Barrio hired local artist ‘Mac’ to decorate the venue. The decor was so popular, Barrio has had Mac decorate every location with Day of the Dead themed artwork.
“Each location actually tells a different story,” Hawley said. “So, there’s a little more behind it. We try to make it a part of the community we’re in.”