Barrio Tacos, a new restaurant located at 202 Albert St., had its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday. The first 100 customers received a $15 gift card for their next visit and the first 50 customers also received a free appetizer.
The owner of the East Lansing branch, Jake Hawley, said Barrio is an eight-year-old company based in northeast Ohio. This is the eighth location in the nation and the first in Michigan.
“There’s nothing like this up here,” Hawley, 33, said. “The ‘build-your-own taco’ is really what has sets us apart from other places. It’s a very interactive experience where get to go through and put together your own creation."
Hawley said younger demographics gravitate toward Barrio’s brand and concept and show interest in what they do. He said the company has a couple of restaurants on college campuses and that Barrio does well with the younger population.
“We’ll bring happy hours with a dollar off tacos, half-off margaritas & tequilas every day from four to seven,” Hawley said. “The nice thing about Barrio is the great value. It's $3.50 tacos. It's a really good quality product at a really good price.”
Executive chef and operations partner Anthony Carano said food safety is the number one priority for them. He said the team wants to make sure everything they're serving is safe for the guests. They go through checking systems with every order that comes in to make sure the product is good.
“My role is basically to make sure we're keeping up Barrio's standards,” Carano said. “Following all of our Barrio recipes and training the development of our back-of-house staff, overseeing all the back-of-house operations from scheduling to ordering to costing, and all that stuff.”
Carano moved to East Lansing from Cleveland, Ohio about eight months ago to open up Barrio in East Lansing. He said he is excited to be a part of the community and the company is targeting its next location as Traverse City, Michigan.
“It's been a great response so far,” Carano said. “We have people almost beating down the door to get in here. ... I'm hoping that it's a great experience for them … I think everybody is going to really like it."
Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Stephens was present during Barrio's ribbon-cutting ceremony. He said the city has been excited about the potential of Barrio’s opening so he was happy to be there to cut the ribbon.
“The first thing that you notice when you walk into the door on opening day is the vast variety of ages that are in this business, which is awesome,” Stephens said. “East Lansing needs more people coming downtown that aren't just college students and I have to say, we just ate tacos, some of the first that were served, and they were delicious.”