Situated on a sleepy corner of Morris Street, South Philadelphia Barbacoa is easy to miss. Right outside, the restaurant is covered with some fragments of green, beautiful glass. Its name is just barely visible above the front door. It looks like some sort of “hidden gem.”
Almost all the customers who visit this Mexican restaurant have a knack for returning, which Benjamin Miller and Cristina Martinez, the couple who run the place, view as a testament to the quality of the food.
“Apart from us, you don’t really have a lot to eat in the neighborhood. You have Geno’s, you have CVS,” Benjamin says, with a sly smile at the mention of the famous cheesesteak joint nearby.
While he takes care of the business end, Christina holds down the kitchen. Explaining the menu, she emphasizes how clean the food is, which customers see for themselves when they dine there.
The morning meal of two tacos with barbacoa comes with self-serve condiments, soup, and fresh juice. It's simple, fresh and spicy, a combination of flavors stayed with me throughout the day, reminding me of the food I would eat in my abuelita’s house.
As much as Cristina and Ben are committed to the food, they are as equally committed to Latino immigrants in the workplace. A recent Facebook page made by Ben states:
“If I can speak on anything from experience, it is that Mexican undocumented workers are in every restaurant in this country. And they have no access to health insurance, they pay taxes, they can't drive because of their nationality," the post reads.
Christina added that “sometimes we have really abusive bosses that don’t respect our work, in different areas of work- construction, cleaning, dishwashing and cooking. And we always feel that push of exploitation.”
Politics aside, South Philadelphia Barbacoa is lovely overall. They're only open on the weekends though, so make sure to stop by Friday through Sunday if you're in South Philadelphia.