Barbakoa's lively menu, decor add excitement to Butterfield Road
Jerry Kleiner's Nuevo Latin hot spot Barbakoa, is a welcome departure for the neighborhood, following the same vibrant, eclectic decorative theme as its Chicago siblings Carnivale and Redlight. Thanks to the fact that chef Dudley Nieto (Zocalo, Zapatista, Adobo Grill, et. al) is in the kitchen, the food is every bit as lively.
But back to the space at 1341 Butterfield Road: it's stunning, from the funky, mismatched wallpaper to the multihued leather chairs, papier mâche animal heads on the wall to the expansive, fireplace-frocked patio. Then there's the bar with it's own bites menu. As far as suburban hangs go, it's the place to be.
We started with the guacamole trio, as should you. Every one is good, from the traditional, pico de gallo-laced version to the habanero-spiked and chicharrón take. Get a salsa flight, too, if you're wise, taking care to include the fiery habanero and macha versions.
We skipped the ceviche -- this time. That's not to say the shrimp with passion fruit or the grilled pineapple-stippled tuna didn't catch our eyes. There's also a black kale and Romaine Caesar salad and tortilla soup to get things started.
The main event though is the tacos, both traditional and modern. Tender carne asada and chorizo with asadero cheese; spit-roasted pastor; beer-battered fish, mounded with chipotle slaw are sure to please.
Whether you settle on chicken tinga or salsa verde pork tamales as accompaniments, or you veer in a different direction for shareable, wood-grilled fare -- an oversized sirloin chop, a whole fish with shishito peppers and yucca-plantain mofongo -- simply put, there's a lot to love. There's even shareable pans of paella for those so inclined.
Interesting sides like white rice flecked with epazote and corn with cojita queso and pequin chile are added enticements.
You can also choose from four tasting menus for the table. If you do, cocktails are near-requisite, be it offbeat margaritas (jalapeno-orange anyone?), muddled drinks or cava sangria. A selection of imported and craft beers, including an pale ale created by Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville exclusively for Barbakoa, also are available.
Likewise, desserts don't disappoint. That's true whether you have the banana tres leches or slick flan.
And if you happen to be craving brunch? Late night fare? The place has you covered there.
What's more, the staff is as warm and welcoming as can be. It really is the perfect place to have around town.
Even if you don't live close, it's also worth the drive.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
Barbakoa1341 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove; (630) 852-2333, barbakoa.com
Cuisine: Nuevo Latino
Setting: Hip and riotously colorful
Entrees: $12 to $65
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday