Barista del Barrio feels like a backyard. The shaded patio area has a few simple chairs and one of those swinging benches you'd buy in the garden section of Home Depot. Up at the front, there's a little silver trailer decorated with Halloween monsters. That's where Sergio Torres works.
The native Tucsonan runs one of the only coffee shops west of the freeway, tucked back from Speedway in the historic Barrio Hollywood neighborhood. Many of the Mexican restaurants and bakeries on Grande Avenue have been there for decades, but Sergio opened Barista del Barrio earlier this year, in the side patio of his grandfather's leasing office.
Head over and you'll probably see one of the Torres family members running pink plastic bags of breakfast burritos out to customers. In addition to the Mexican-inspired coffee shop, Barista del Barrio has a small food menu with bagels, breakfast sandwiches and bowls, and even green corn tamales.
The breakfast burritos are a little different from the kind you'll find at nearby joints like Viva Burrito or La Fresita. First of all they're half the size, and come two to a pack.
Made with local tortillas from Tortillas de Harina Linda, they're filled with a fluffy scramble, beans and your choice of meat and then toasted on a panini press to give them crispy little ridges. They're less greasy than your takeout variety and come with an awesome blended salsa with a spicy oregano flavor.
It wasn't Sergio's idea to open Barista del Barrio. It was his mother Flavia's. She actually quit her job to help him run the shop after the Navy veteran moved back home from Colorado. In the first few months, business has picked up so much that Sergio also brought in his sister Ariana. "It's really become a family thing," he said.
Sergio had to change the name of his business from Barrio Barista to Barista del Barrio, after a coffee shop in San Antonio claimed rights to the name. But despite the setbacks, the outdoor coffee shop has gotten a substantial word-of-mouth following. (The business actually has a 5/5 star rating on Yelp, with 30 reviews.)
Hanging out on the patio sipping a Barrio Cold Brew, it's easy to see why this place has gotten so popular. This homey space feels like Tucson distilled into an icy liquid beverage. It's hip without being pretentious, quietly historic and 100 percent easy-going.
Barista del Barrio is at 1002 N. Grande Ave. Phone: 520-244-5285. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, closed Tuesdays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.