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Barrio – Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series

Tacos. Scantrons. Free Chips. This is Barrio.

For a long time there have been stories about Barrio and Condado. Previously business partners, Joseph Kahn split off to create Condado Tacos (now with 28 locations). Kahn was removed from Barrio’s ownership in 2013 by Thomas Leneghan, and legal documents began to fly around after that claiming that Kahn ripped off the entire concept. Prior to a July 2021 ruling that stated Joseph Kahn and Condado were well within their rights to create the Condado concept and that it was not a knock-off of Barrio, Barrio announced they were opening a location in Columbus (where Condado originally opened in 2014). The Taco Wars were under way and now here we are, with multiple Condado’s and soon to be multiple Barrio’s.

Both Condado and Barrio follow an extremely similar formula, with a Scantron of options to choose from. Barrio comes into the game with meats like Coca-Cola Marinated Steak, Jalapeño Lime Shrimp, Chorizo, and Spice-rubbed Chicken just to name a few, along with some additional vegetarian options. For cheese you have your choice of Queso Fresco, smoked cheddar, or chihuahua cheese, and then a host of toppings. Oh, you thought that was it? No, no, you’ve also got six options for how to get all the ingredients to your face. Basic corn or flour tortilla, or my favorite the Stoner (flour soft + corn hard + queso + chorizo). It’s an extra dollar, but well worth it in my opinion.

There are also pre-determined taco options, as well as a handful of quesos and margs to choose from.

Hot cheeto dust queso

A new month brings new flavors and quesos, so the above sadly no longer exists.

From other taco spots around Columbus, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of heat from Barrio. Last time I talked about the taco wars, you all nearly set fire to /r/Columbus, so today I won’t make any inflammatory statements about who makes the best taco. I will say that of the Scantron taco joints, Barrio has the spiciest sauces. Sporting nine sauces (two 3-pepper rating, one 5-pepper rating), there’s a large range to choose from. For my two tacos, I opted for the Barrio Secret Sauce (“super spicy”) and the Carolina Reaper (“HOT! HOT! HOT!”). As a heads up, you’ll pay an extra $0.50 for the Carolina Reaper sauce.

Loaded up with tacos in my holsters, I cronched on into the Stoner shell with the chili-spiced ground sirloin and Carolina Reaper sauce. Distant first, but a creeping Reaper flavor, then a slower creeping Reaper heat appeared. The sauce is almost lazy in its appearance as if I’d just woken it from a spicy slumber (though in a Stoner shell that’s likely on me). Front and sides of the mouth heat, but closer to the heat of a Taco Bell Diablo sauce than a true Carolina Reaper sauce. That’s not to say its not made with Reapers, the flavor is there, but the heat rises and subsides quickly. One little sniffle trickled out my nose hole, but past that the effects were minimal.

Reaching for taco two, with the Secret Sauce, I became confused at the heat ratings. For me, the Secret Sauce felt spicier than the Carolina Reaper sauce, causing chaos in my capsaicin-addled noggin. It’s likely worth further inspection, but for now I’ll lean on the pepper ratings to make my final judgement.

All things considered, Barrio has the capability to blow some folks away, but on our list, they have a comfy cushion at #68. Not intensely hot, but right in that range of “oh, this is too much” for some.

In our opinion, Barrio wins the Taco Wars (, both in spicy sauces and in taco size/quality. How about you, where do you stand with the Taco Wars?


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