Asbury Park, NJ 07712
- Opened: 2016
- Cost: $$$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Street, Metered
February 9, 2017
Upscale Mexican cuisine is making headway in New Jersey. Enjoy creative “coastal” interpretations of Mexican food on the Jersey Shore at Barrio Costero in Asbury Park.
Opened in April 2016, Barrio Costero, or “coastal neighborhood,” reinterprets familiar Mexican dishes with some unexpected ingredients and kitchen flourishes. Chef Anthony Bustamante has a knack for bright flavors and beautiful plates. A deep violet brush of beet mole frames the heirloom tomato salad. Dots of squid ink surround the grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and roasted peppers.
Start your meal with a couple botanas, or snacks, like the quince empanaditas with cardamom purée, or shishito peppers with chipotle sauce. Barrio Costero’s menu is organized in three sections: del campo (from the land – vegetarian), mariscos (seafood) and carne (meat). Vegetables here are not an afterthought. The vegetarian dishes, like a mushroom and avocado huarache, are excellent, as are the roasted vegetables alongside other entrees. There are many worthy seafood options, like the daily catch fish tacos, and a variety of hearty meats, like the duck pozole, braised short rib carnitas or pork tamales. My favorite is the thin, grilled Tampiqueña steak, served with lip-smacking potato-cheese quesadillas, mixed greens, fresh salsa and a fried egg (in case you’re still hungry).
Barrio Costero features a sleek, modern dining room, an appropriate setting for the food and drinks. There are local beers and a nice wine list emphasizing Spanish and South American producers. The cocktail program is a big draw here. Try “El Matador” – a smooth mix of rye whiskey, mezcal and grapefruit liqueur. A few of those and you’re ready to run with the bulls.
New Jerseyans are learning that Mexican food is as diverse and vibrant as the Mexican nation. Jersey has it all, from excellent taquerías to real Mexican comfort food (try El Oaxaqueño, La Esperanza, La Malinche, or El Matador). Upscale versions of this noble cuisine can now be found at restaurants like Montclair’s Villalobos and Jersey City’s Órale. Add Asbury Park’s Barrio Costero to the list of must-try restaurants creatively interpreting Mexican dishes in New Jersey.
Disclaimer: I visited Barrio Costero with a group of five couples for a raucous 50th birthday celeberation. The food was excellent, that I know, but my ability to remember some of the details of the dishes, and the order in which we ate them, disappeared as rapidly as the mezcal cocktails. This review relies on photo evidence, menu interpretation, and hearsay.