Editor’s Note: This article was updated on November 2, 2017
When I start visiting a new place in town, I always feel a little selfish by not telling people about it. It’s so tempting to keep it as my little secret, especially when I become a regular there.
Such is the case for Barrio Central Cafe Bar, which recently opened in the Laureles area (San Joaquín). I had seen a bit of the process of building and marketing for it, and it had earned its place on my radar since December. Now that it’s open, it’s really hard to convince myself to go somewhere else. To be honest, it’s one more reason why I keep staying in Laureles on my weekends out.
About Barrio Central
Barrio Central (Circular 2 #68 – 123, San Joaquín) is the result of British-Colombian couple Craig and Lina, and Lina’s cousin Julian and partner Maria Isabel, their ideas and taste. Lina is responsible for the beauty that the formerly simple corner house turned into.
As the name states, it is both at a central location, just off Carrera 70 in Laureles, and also on a residential “barrio” street, making it a really relaxed place to spend an evening without the bass of a bar next door in your ears.
They’re open all week: Monday – Thursday, 4pm – midnight; Friday and Saturday, 3pm – 2am; and Sunday, 3pm – midnight. The place has a very industrial grungy chic feel, with concrete tables outside, as well as long table bar-like seating, a large palm tree, original to the house, under fairy lights that make it all feel warm and extremely pleasant. Inside, the area is adorned by mixes of dark and bright spaces, plants, industrial yellow piping, exposed brick and other great details.
Barrio Central offers a variety of items on their menu, which is currently being defined and modified as the place grows and settles into itself. For starters, they offer local, craft and popular international beers, all ranging from 4,500 to 11,000 ($1.50- $3.70). Wine, liquor, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks as well. I beg you, try the Mango Biche juice–it’s juice made from unripe mango, which I’m not a huge fan of, but the juice is perfection.
For food, they have many options, from six kinds of homemade pizzas (three are vegetarian); five different types of sandwiches, including BLT, Pulled Pork, Pesto Chicken, Sliced Pork and a Vegetarian hummus option for 16,500 each (about $5.50); and three salads.
The menu also includes some popular Colombian foods for sharing, such as empanadas with homemade sauces like aji con maracuya, chicharroncitos, chorizos, and guacamole. Everything is homemade whenever possible. The full menu can be found here.
They also recently started building up a coffee menu since obtaining their espresso machine, so I’ll have to try that during one of my many future visits.
Every time I go, I notice that they play all kinds of great music. Staying true to their multicultural owners and customers, I’ve heard music ranging from R&B to Cuban salsa, and I always find myself singing along. This is not something I usually highlight at places I visit because the music is always good or decent, but this place has exceptional playlists and is still a place to have conversation without shouting over each other.
While you won’t always find Craig and Lina there, sometimes they’ll kick it for a while and drop in, ask how you’re doing, and it’s likely you’ll see their business partners there too, keeping things tip top. However, their staff always does a great job, polite and smiling, as you can see in the photo, which is so refreshing.
More About Barrio Central
The crowds at the bar vary from night to night. I tend to go on weeknights and find a lot of Colombian couples there, of all ages. They also host groups of friends and celebrations.
I especially love that they’re open all week and that they start so early (for a bar), since Sunday can be a difficult day to find a place at which to spend time. In general, I feel they really attend to a demand for an alternative space that still sits in a calm area, but not far from the action of busier party streets.
The owners and staff at Barrio Central have not been content to rest on their laurels in Laureles. They’ve taken strides to improve the experience for their customers. Among the improvements is the expansion of the kitchen, enabling them to provide better and more efficient food service. In addition, Barrio Central has added a new lounge area in the back, giving customers the option of a more relaxed space, complete with sofas, magazines, and games.
To complete the revamping, they have just improved the sound system, giving the bar better quality sound and allowing them to now feature live music events. Additional events are also in the works, including a British-style pub quiz and language exchange. Check their Facebook page for event listings.
All photos courtesy of Barrio Central, except as noted.