When Juan and Carlos Vergara opened Barroco Grill (12906 Madison Ave., 216-221-8127) in Lakewood back in 2011, the pint-sized café had all of 12 seats. Little did the father-and-son team know that they would unleash a near insatiable demand for their warm, crisp and corny Colombian arepas.
Before long there were waits for a table but nowhere to comfortably wait. So Juan appropriated a portion of his own apartment, which was in the rear of the structure, to use as an additional small dining room. When that wasn’t enough space to accommodate the growing crowds he went back to the well, claiming more of the apartment for restaurant use. He did that three times, which bought him more space but at the expense of a disjointed and dysfunctional layout.
The good news is that the Vergaras recently purchased the property, which has set into motion an ambitious renovation project.
“In order to unify all the space we have to demolish the back of the building, dig out the basement, restructure the floor, and pour concrete floors,” explains Juan.
When all is said and done, the new interior will seat 80 guests in one large, open space. But that’s just the start of the improvements, notes Juan. He’s adding a new bathroom and building a small bar, which will be useful if and when he secures a beer and wine license. The project also includes a garage door that will open to a new patio. A storefront renovation project is on deck.
“Thank god everything is going great and running smoothly,” he says of his restaurant business.
Vergara says that a primary motivation for the improvements, in addition to keeping down wait times, is to facilitate the spontaneous dance parties that erupt when live bands play on weekends.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he says. “People will just jump up and dance with complete strangers. We want to embrace the live music every Friday by providing enough space for people to get up and dance.”
Juan’s big plan for summer is to purchase and renovate an old chiva, those brightly painted open-air buses seen motoring in rural Latin America. “I want to hollow it out, park it outside and use it as an additional seating area,” he says.
The restaurant is open during the renovation, but reduced in size by half. They hope to be fully operational by mid-December.