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Phoenix chef Silvana Salcido Esparza warns her restaurant, Barrio Cafe, could close for good

3 Arizona chefs nominated for James Beard awards
Posted at 4:40 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 19:13:58-05

PHOENIX — Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, a powerhouse chef in Phoenix and owner of Barrio Cafe, a popular Mexican restaurant, said her restaurant's future is "bleak" and is seriously at risk of closing down permanently.

She said the economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial toll of plumbing concerns surrounding her restaurant could force her business to shutter for good -- and her "Barrio Family" forced to look elsewhere.

"It’s not just a backed-up sink, it’s a whole new infrastructure," she told ABC15 on Monday. "Normally you figure out a way to survive this, but during COVID, there’s no surviving this."

She posted a concerning, yet straight-to-the-point plea on her Facebook page over the weekend.

"If we cannot find another way past this, it's over. Can't put it any other way," she wrote, adding that the cost to repair the plumbing issues were well over $20,000.

"The next few weeks are make or break," she wrote. The restaurant is located near 16th Street and Thomas in Phoenix.

She said sales are significantly down and in order to make up the funds needed to do the repairs and keep the restaurant afloat, she needs more customers.

She does not want donations or to start an online GoFundMe. She hasn't authorized such an endeavor either.

"I would love to sell you my food. I would love to see filled restaurants, filled to-gos. But to take your money just like that, it’s not my character," she said.

Esparza said she's applied for some grants and programs, but the money hasn't come through. She has also extended her outdoor patio to seat more people, he said.

But, due to the plumbing issues, her restaurant was closed for last week.

Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and co-host of ABC's The View, gave the restaurant a national shout-out during Monday's show. She then shared a clip from the show on her Twitter account.

Barrio Cafe opened in 2002 and quickly became a go-to destination in Phoenix for authentic Mexican cuisine. She's and her restaurant has featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and won several local awards from local publications.

Last year, she shuttered Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva, another one of her restaurants, due to the pandemic.

In May, she coordinated with other local chefs in the area to cook meals and food for healthcare workers and those in need. Now, she's asking for the community to help her.

The restaurant is located at 2814 N. 16th Street in Phoenix. The restaurant does not accept reservations. It is first come, first served, according to the website. Masks are required.


Barrio Cafe
2814 N 16th Street
Phoenix, Arizona, 85006