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Don Barriga Interior. Photo: Eli Siegel
Don Barriga Interior. Photo: Eli Siegel

Don Barriga: Authentic Mexican cuisine arrives to West Philadelphia

The restaurant is a labor of sibling love and collaboration. 

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For years, West Philadelphians looking for tasty Mexican fare have had to trek across the city. Nearby restaurant Guacamole closed its doors in 2018. The only reliable source of somewhat Mexican cuisine was Honest Tom’s, which is really an American burrito joint. Fortunately this is no longer the case.

This past June, siblings Melina, Paulina and Carlos Barriga opened up an authentic Mexican restaurant at the corner of 45th and Spruce Streets where customers will be delighted to find classics such as enchiladas, alambres, chilaquiles and tacos, among others.

The restaurant is located at the site of the former breakfast place Farmacy, which closed earlier this year to focus on its full service location in Palmira. The Barriga siblings happened to pass by one day by chance, and saw that the locale was empty.

“We didn’t know at the time that there weren’t other Mexican restaurants in the area,” said Melina. “The owner of the building informed us.”

The Barrigas had been thinking for some time of opening a place of their own. Their parents operated Mexican Grill La Guera in Upper Darby when they were kids.

“I was always in the restaurant growing up. My mom taught me. I learned bit by bit,” explained Melina.

To start their new operation was to continue the family business as well as provide a more stable source of income.

“I already had the idea,” said Melina. “Sometimes I have work and sometimes not.”

They decided to open in the summer months before the students arrived to get things underway when the environment was quieter.

To their surprise, on opening day the line of customers wrapped around the block with people waiting over 40 minutes for their food.

“There were so many people,” said Melina. “It was a great reaction. The line kept on expanding. We had to close because we ran out of so many things. It was just so many more people than we were expecting.”

The restaurant’s menu offers a wide variety of Mexican dishes similar to what you would see in a Mexico City restaurant. The many options include tacos, gorditas, enchiladas, soups, chilaquiles, ensaladas, fajitas, chile rellenos, flautas, mole con pollo and others.

I tried the Alambres Don Barriga - a mix of chicken, steak, bacon and shrimp cooked with green and red bell peppers, onions and melted mozzarella cheese. The heaping plate offered me more food than I could handle and was delicious.

In addition to the Alambres, some of the other most popular dishes include the fajitas (chicken, steak, shrimp and vegetarian) cooked with green and red bell peppers, onions and zucchini, as well as enchiladas de mole (rojas, verdes) stuffed with chicken and soaked in homemade mole sauce topped with raw onions, fresh cheese and sour cream.

On the weekends they offer barbacoa (Melina’s favorite). There’s always a selection of aguas frescas that changes daily.

“Our food is fresh and is made at the moment you order,” said Melina.

To learn more about Don Barriga Mexican Grill check out their Facebook page @Don Barriga mexican grill. Their hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Address: 4443 Spruce Street, 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Phone Number: 267-292-5741. They offer Dine In, Takeout and Delivery. You can also order from Grubhub or Seamless.

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