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Dining out: Barbacoa

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Barbacoa is a simple place.

The menu has basically four items — burritos, burrito bowls, salads and tacos — and you can get each of them five different ways: "barbacoa" (more on that later), chicken, carnitas, steak or veggie. You can also order chips and salsa, extra salsa, a frosty cold beverage of your choice and rice or beans. That's pretty much it.

That simplicity is the place's strength, as it turns out. What Barbacoa does, it does well.

We stopped by the Olympus Hills Barbacoa on a recent Saturday evening, just as the dinner crowd was beginning to thicken.

The interior is rustic apres-ski meets industrial, with a clean, open feel. The multi-windowed building has a fortunate location because, despite the cars whizzing by on I-215 outside the front windows, what you really get is a three-sided view of the valley. It's a nice place to watch the sun set.

And a nice place to enjoy an enormous — and I mean enormous — burrito. My husband's steak burrito looked like a smallish loaf of bread rather than a meal for one. But Barbacoa manages the tricky task of stuffing burritos until the tortilla looks stretched and shiny on the outside while keeping the filling from bursting out when you bite into it.

The steak burrito was full of spicy, juicy, lean meat, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, black beans and Barbacoa's sour cilantro-lime rice, every bit of it fresh-tasting. I liked it very much, and judging from the way my husband scarfed it down, he did, too.

I tried one of the burrito bowls, sort of Mexican food Asian-style. I admit I don't totally understand this concept — a burrito without a tortilla. It was tasty, though.

I got the barbacoa bowl, which featured tons of barbecued shredded meat and the rest of the burrito fixins piled in a big bowl. I got a tortilla with it for 65 cents extra, and I thought that was pricey for one tortilla until I saw this monster. It looked like a place mat — no, a tablecloth. It was more than sufficient to envelop the contents of my bowl, with a few bits left over for sopping up.

Barbacoa doesn't have a kids' menu as such, but our kids enjoyed the simply flavored rice, bowl after bowl of hot, mellow pinto beans and the cheesy chicken taco they shared. We also all enjoyed an order of chips sprinkled with margarita salt and dipped in Barbacoa's green salsa.

Barbacoa's cooks do a good job with their meat. It's lean, savory and well-cooked. They also serve a good guacamole, which you can get on your meal for an extra 95 cents.

There's no dessert, but if you eat your whole burrito — or your whole bowl or salad — you'll be so stuffed, you won't miss it.

Burritos, burrito bowls and salads, $4.95-$5.95; tacos $1.70-$2.50; chips and salsa $1.25; extras 55 cents-$1.25.

Rating: ***

Where: 3927 S. Wasatch Blvd. (237-8700); 4638 S. 2300 East (273-7231); 859 E. 900 South (524-0853)

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, noon-8 p.m.

Payment: No checks

Reservations: None


Stacey Kratz is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com