By Valerie Vinyard
It seems like a perfect marriage: Barrio Bread and the El Charro enterprise partnering on a casual eatery that pairs their strengths.
After all, each of the James Beard-nominated entities is at the top of its genre in Tucson: Barrio with its variety of homemade breads and El Charro with its longstanding traditions and delicious Mexican cuisine.
So, El Charro matriarch Carlotta Flores and Barrio Bread owner Don Guerra signed a lease March 3 to open a new concept called Barrio Charro. If construction remains on schedule, the restaurant is slated to open before Thanksgiving.
The space, which is located on the northwest corner of Prince Road and Campbell Avenue in the Safeway plaza, used to house Island Plate Lunch. Barrio Charro will offer a Sonoran-Tucson flavored response to the growing trend of bakery café and grab-and-go markets.
“We’ve known each other probably a decade,” says Guerra of Flores. “We’ve wanted to do something like this, and it just hasn’t been the right time.”
“We share the same common focus,” Flores says. “Feeding everyone healthy, delicious food and celebrating our Tucson culture with respect. It will be a taste of community and cultures,” she says.
Flores envisions Barrio Charro as more than just another sandwich shop.
“A lot of people make a sandwich,” says Flores, noting that Barrio Charro will feature coffees, healthy teas, and prepared foods such as salmon and prime rib that customers can pick up and take home.
“I was the first one in Tucson to offer heart-healthy Mexican food,” she says, adding she removed trans fat from her menus because “they don’t work in my world.”
She says Guerra’s bread will elevate the product even more.
“Don has taken what was a mass-produced product to the craft of making wholesome bread,” she says. “This bread is truly a nutritionally based food item and not full of synthetic products.”
“We start with the raw materials of locally based wheats,” says Guerra, noting that it improves the overall texture of the bread so it’s “fun to eat.”
And it is. Guerra creates hearth-baked loaves that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
He says he plans to offer about five varieties of bread in the new space, but he still will keep his Eastbourne Avenue bakery.
Jeremy Kennedy, an electrical engineer who lives in Midtown Tucson, is looking forward to experiencing Barrio Charro.
“I’ve been one of the dozens of people waiting in line to buy a loaf at Barrio Bread,” he says. “It will be nice to see how his bread will enhance the menu.”
Barrio Charro will feature select alcoholic and craft beverages and special signature items along with avocado toast, bruschetta and its own versions of tortas that Flores says will be more like open-faced versions blending ingredients from local sources and regional influences. The team also hints at a special Barrio rendition of a “Tlayuda,” which is like a Mexican pizza.
Flores says classes in chiles or Guerra’s flours might be offered in the future.
“As a baker, I am passionate about creating delicious food that fosters community and fuels relationships,” Guerra says. “People have always gathered around bread and shared meals to celebrate big life events and affirm their commitment to one another as family and friends. And while the way people can gather has changed this year, people’s need to seek solace, comfort and laughter with one another is even more acute.”