Rendering of New East Side Location
Since opening in the Birdtown neighborhood of Lakewood back in 2011, Barroco Arepa Bar and Concert Café
(12906 Madison Ave., 216-221-8127) has continually expanded, matured and cast a wider net. Over that stretch of time, the operation has progressed from a Pop-and-Son shop with a scant 12 seats to a vibrant and eclectic dining destination for 80 guests, 150 if you count the wrap-around patio.
But owner Juan Vergara is never satisfied. According to him, there still are too many people in Cleveland who have yet to experience his unique Colombian-themed arepa bar. To remedy that, he and his family will open a second location on the east side of town. The location is on Larchmere Boulevard, in a building that was home to the short-lived Valo as well as Jezebel’s Bayou, Menu 6 and Boulevard Blue.
“We know we have something really nice going on in Lakewood,” Vergara says. “We’ve been having a lot of fun, things are going really good and we have a great concept. But I know for a fact that the East Side of Cleveland doesn’t know Barroco as well as I’d like. We do have a ton of people who come from the east side, but they don’t come as often as they’d like.”
As fans of the Brazilian-themed Batuqui on the same street, Vergara and his father happened to see the property. After stepping inside of the recently renovated building, the decision was made.
“We spent 15 minutes in the building and it was a no-brainer to us,” he says. “We already knew we liked the Larchmere neighborhood. It reminds me a lot of what Birdtown is like: a really nicely kept secret neighborhood that just needs a little more love. We just fit.”
Given the current state of affairs, Vergara estimates a three-month window until opening day. When it does open, Vergara promises that the experience will be nearly identical to that found across town.
“We have to make the experience the same – that, to us, is really important,” Vergara explains. “We understand that people come to Barroco because of the experience, the food, the eclectic vibe, the live music. They will get the same food, the same service, the same experience – everything. That’s the whole point of us bringing a Barroco to the east side.”
While the dining room is roughly 70-perecnt of the Lakewood restaurant, the kitchen is considerably larger and better equipped. That will allow the team to transfer many of the time- and labor-intensive cooking procedures across town, things like the scratch-made arepas, sauces, plantains, and cooking bases. The kitchen will also allow Barroco to stop saying “no” to catering requests.
“Our mentality has changed a ton of times since opening – from wanting to be everywhere in the United States to just focusing on our one location and making it the best it can be,” Vergara says. “But when this opportunity presented itself, we knew it was time. We have built a really good team of solid people who understand the concept and are on board with us. We have to make use of them.”
Barroco will join other new food establishments on the street like Poison Berry Bakery and Gray House Pies.