Barrio Cafe chef says things are “bleak,” Phoenix community rallies to help – AZFamily

Restaurant News

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe is a legend in the Phoenix-area restaurant scene. But now she says her eatery could be in danger of closing for good.

Barrio Cafe has been struggling since the pandemic hit, and now has been dealing with costly plumbing issues. Esparza posted on Instagram Sunday: “If we cannot find a way past this, it’s over. Plumbing problems totaling well over $20K plus COVID… This is looking bleak.” She also said the next few weeks are “make or break” for Barrio Cafe.

But the Phoenix community is rallying to help. People all around the Valley have been sharing her post on social media, encouraging diners to give Barrio Cafe their business.

One tweet said: “Let’s give Barrio Cafe some love. Please consider ordering takeout from one of the BEST Mexican restaurants in Phoenix.”

Even Meghan McCain was tweeting about it to show her support. Her tweet said: “Barrio Cafe is an Arizona staple and one of my all-time favorites. This is breaking my heart – if you can, please support and get a meal from them. Support local and keep great restaurants in business.”

Phoenix restaurant giving away free food instead of selling it during COVID-19

Barrio Cafe has had its share of trouble, but has always managed to give back to the community. When the pandemic first started, Esparza closed her restaurants down and began feeding the homeless. “I’m worried about my fellow man,” Esparza said at the time. The meals were prepared by volunteers and handed out to those in need. “Giving them groceries, some dignity not having to stand in a soup line or a homeless shelter,” said Esparza.

Owner of Barrio Cafe in Phoenix battling incurable disease

The chef has also been battling health issues of her own. Esparza has sarcoidosis, an incurable inflammatory disease. She said it has impacted her eyes, skin, heart, liver and kidneys. Esparza said she was in remission, until the pandemic hit. “Because of the stress of closing down a restaurant, pandemic and all of that, eventually now it is back,” Esparza said back in November. Esparza also said she gave up her health insurance to save money and help keep Barrio Cafe in business.  

On Sunday evening, the website said Barrio Cafe is temporarily closed for repairs, but Esparza’s post says the restaurant will open Monday.

Esparza has been at the helm of the Barrio Cafe kitchen since 2002. Her food is known for regional Mexican flavors, with crowd-pleasing dishes like Cochinita Pibil, Chiles en Nogada, and Chef’s tableside Guacamole. Her food has received national recognition, and Barrio Cafe has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners Drive Ins and Dives.

Esparza is the daughter of a baker, and grew up in Central Valley, California. She grew up in a multi-generational home, learning to cook with her grandmother and working alongside her parents in the family bakeries. After culinary school, Esparza traveled to all parts of Mexico, eventually bringing that experience home to Phoenix.

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