Family Behind Barroco Arepa Bar to Open Hola Tacos in Birdtown


  • Juan Vergara
Here they grow again.

Since opening Barroco Arepa Bar in Lakewood (12906 Madison Ave., 216-221-8127) back in 2011, the Vergara family has continued to spread its unique blend of food, service and setting across Northeast Ohio. In 2017, they opened a second Barroco on Larchmere (12718 Larchmere Blvd., 216-938-9301) in Cleveland, which they followed up last year with another location at Crocker Park in Westlake.

Next up for the productive clan is Hola Tacos, a funky taco stand that will take over the now-closed Gorilla space (12102 Madison Ave.) in Lakewood. Juan Vergara says that the work needed to convert the former walk-up ice cream shop into what he’s calling an “L.A.-style Mexican taco stand” should be completed by late August.

“This will be pretty simple, pretty straightforward, nothing crazy,” he explains. “Our focus will be on authentic tacos from different regions around Mexico. Mexico has a ton of different kinds of tacos – it’s not just one type – and we certainly don’t want to Americanize it.”

Hola Tacos will be casual, but full-service, with diners being waited on at picnic tables. A new wrap-around counter will offer seating that looks into the kitchen. Vergara hopes to utilize homemade corn tortillas – “If we can make arepas from scratch [at Barroco], we should be able to make tortillas” – and to secure a beer and liquor license for cervesas and margaritas.

Unlike the businesses in this spot before it, Hola Tacos will be a year-round operation, promises Vergara.

“The whole idea behind this is to keep that area of Madison more beautiful and active,” he says. “We don’t want a closed store.”

Business during the winter months will be buoyed by take-out orders, third-party delivery outfits and even drive-in service, where runners cater to car-bound customers. Down the road, a seasonal enclosure with heaters might be installed.

“We saw a great opportunity there, another great little spot to keep investing in Lakewood,” says Vergara. “We feel really committed to Lakewood because that’s where we started, and we have a special place in our hearts for Birdtown, so we are doing everything we can to keep it growing and making it better.”

On that note, Vergara reports that the stalled Casablanca Urban Cantina project, which will take up residence in a neighboring building, is once again full-steam ahead. The Latin American-inspired concept, which will feature wood-fired foods from Argentina, Peru, Chile and beyond, is now slated to open in early 2020.

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.