Opinion: Barrio opening on campus may have been a mistake

If you were to ask me a year ago how excited I was for Barrio to open on Cleveland State’s campus, I would’ve told you I was so eager for it to open that I figured my mind may have exploded before I was ever able to see the day.

Photo Credit: Mays Turabi

Barrio is my go-to comfort food, ask anyone who knows me. When I lived in a homeless shelter just a few blocks away from the Barrio on Prospect Avenue in downtown Cleveland, I would walk there anytime I had a few dollars and order three tacos, queso, guacamole and chips with salsa for just under $25. I did this to make my life feel normal at a time when COVID-19 was just starting to settle down.

To emphasize my love for Barrio even more, let’s backtrack: CSU was not my first choice for college. I attended a school in Missouri my freshman year of college and later made plans to transfer—and, safe to say, the knowledge of Barrio opening on campus definitely sealed that deal for me. 

Upon my transfer, I waited eagerly my entire sophomore year for Barrio to pop up. My junior year began, and the day had finally come! 

But, to my surprise, the Barrio I know and love is replicated nowhere near the same here on campus. Allow me to set the scene.

I waited in a long line to purchase my items on a touchscreen device (which seemed a bit unorthodox to me), just to find out that this new Barrio had limited items available. I ignored my instinct to walk away because I was optimistic that such was simply because it was newly opened. Surely, fewer food items doesn’t have to mean a less pleasant experience…right? 

I ordered a bowl, mainly because the taco selections are limited, though I am particular with how I customize my tacos at Barrio. Unfortunately, bowls are also limited to only a few toppings, which prompted me to make some changes to my usual order, meaning more toppings, which were certainly not cheap additions to my purchase. 

At that point, I couldn’t help but think that if I had just gone a few blocks up the street to my usual Barrio location, I would have received more options and spent less money, all for potentially higher quality food. Nonetheless, I pushed this thought to the back of my mind for the sake of optimism and continued with my order.

Like I mentioned, the pricing for the new on-campus Barrio is a little more expensive than other Barrio locations. If I were to order a bowl at the Prospect location, I would spend about $8 and some change (with protein included!) However, at the Barrio on campus, a bowl with one protein costs $12, and the portion sizes are not as generous.

That aside, I received my meal, took it back to my apartment and opened my bowl, only to find a small spoonful of chicken, a sprinkle of cheese, a bit of beans and a large amount of rice. I wish I was exaggerating, but the meal did not live up to expectation in the slightest. 

A few bites in and I felt deeply uncomfortable with the flavor and presentation of the meal, and dejection and regret slowly surfaced. I continued to try and stomach the food, but, truthfully, I was turned off from the idea of ever eating at CSU’s Barrio again.

After my disappointing experience, I went around campus asking students what they thought themselves. Most of the students I spoke with had yet to try it, but one student’s comment stood out to me:

“I thought it was a five out of ten, it was a little bit cold, the chicken wasn’t warm, small portions,” shared criminology major Alexis Atlagovich. “…A four out of ten honestly…it was 14 dollars for cold food. Why would they change the prices? If I was starving, I would go back, but other than that, I wouldn’t. I do not recommend the Barrio on campus.”

Atlagovich added that the university would have been better off keeping Papa John’s, the restaurant previously in Barrio’s place.

Was Barrio a good investment on CSU’s behalf? Please, don’t take my word for it. I encourage students to try it and find out for themselves.

Disclaimer: This article in no way reflects the views of The Cauldron and its staff. It only reflects the views of the columnist.

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