Barrio opens in Cedar Fairmount district

Jake Hawley, Sean Fairbairn and artist Michael McNamara inside the new Barrio in Cleveland Heights.

Barrio, a new restaurant, opened on Feb. 28 in the Cedar Fairmount district, in the space formerly occupied by longtime tenant the Mad Greek. The new restaurant is the fifth Barrio in Greater Cleveland, and the first to open on the East Side.

“Barrio means neighborhood in Spanish,” said Sean Fairbairn, co-owner of the chain, along with Tom Leneghan. “We thought this was a really nice neighborhood. There is good energy and good people. There is also parking in the back, behind the restaurant, and there are colleges nearby.”

Jake Hawley, director of operations, noted that Barrio often draws a younger demographic, and having both Case Western Reserve University and John Carroll University nearby was a big factor in the location’s selection. Fairbairn and his partner looked at about 100 locations before selecting Cedar Fairmount.

Fairbairn stressed that Barrio did not come into the Cedar Fairmount neighborhood with the idea of driving other restaurants out of business. “We came into this neighborhood not to compete, but to complete,” Fairbairn said. “We want to bring more people into this neighborhood to see how good it is and to enjoy it.”

The company did extensive renovations before opening the restaurant. “Nothing had been done with this space for about 40 years, since the Mad Greek was first here,” said Fairbairn. Taking down several walls in the restaurant made the space more open. “We did not want to be in little boxed rooms,” Fairbairn added. “We really wanted to open the space up to give it more energy.”

As in the other Barrio restaurants, the walls are covered with a variety of images created by artist Michael McNamara.

The bar, located in the center of the restaurant, seats about 27 people, and the whole restaurant can accommodate about 160. The back patio holds about 70, and sliding “garage doors” at the front of the restaurant can be opened when it is warm outside.

Barrio’s bar menu includes 32 types of draft beers, high-end bourbon, tequila, whiskey, margaritas and other signature cocktails.

The food menu features build-your-own tacos, as well as tacos designed by the restaurant’s chef, Pete Joyce. “You can make something different every day,” Fairbairn said. “It’s an interactive way of ordering, and it keeps people coming back.”

Fairbairn grew up in North Olmsted and now lives in Westlake, while Hawley grew up in Avon and now lives in Fairview Park. Fairbairn has two daughters, Ava and Sophia, and both of them were there for the restaurant’s opening.

The city of Cleveland Heights held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the restaurant on Feb. 28, with City Council Member Mary Dunbar, Business Development Director Brian Anderson and Assistant City Manager Susanna O’Neil all taking part.

The Cedar Fairmount Barrio is open until 2 a.m. every night. The restaurant opens at 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday; and at 11 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The restaurant serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The four other Barrios are located in Tremont, Lakewood, the Gateway District in downtown Cleveland and at Progressive Field. The Tremont restaurant, the chain’s first, opened in 2012. The business also operates three food trucks.

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley. He is on the board of FutureHeights, and is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee.

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 4:48 PM, 03.06.2017