GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan’s first Barrio Tacos officially opens Thursday in Grand Rapids.

The restaurant at 37 Ottawa Ave. NW north of Fulton Street marks its grand opening a little over a year after owner Jake Hawley signed a lease for the space and began a complete buildout.

“It’s been a long time coming. Had some minor delays during the construction process, which is normal these days,” he said. “We were delayed a couple weeks. That ended up working out in our favor because that (patio garage door) went in right at the last second, so we have this awesome indoor-outdoor vibe.”

A muralist spent two weeks transforming the walls into a work of art. The surfaces are covered in skeletal versions of famous artworks, paying homage to Grand Rapids’ art culture and the Day of the Dead.

(A June 16, 2022 photo shows the interior of Barrio Tacos in Grand Rapids.)

“That mural right at the front door, I think is just kind of that wow factor. It takes what Barrio does and makes us special and really incorporates a unique Grand Rapids-driven vibe with all art. So just a perfect marriage of what Grand Rapids represents and our concept,” Hawley said.

(A June 15, 2022 photo shows the first mural that greets visitors of Barrio Tacos in Grand Rapids.)

The Grand Rapids Barrio Tacos also features illuminated handcrafted metalwork on the front of its bar and hanging from the ceilings.

“The space looks really cool,” Hawley said. “Everything turned out just how we wanted.”

The restaurant can accommodate about 120 people inside and another 50 patrons outside on its landscaped patio, which includes a fire pit, string lights and a garage door connecting both spaces.

“Barrio” means neighborhood — something Hawley says his restaurants strive to be a part of. The newest Grand Rapids restaurant is just steps away from Van Andel Arena.

(A stained-glass piece behind the bar of Barrio Tacos pays tribute to the surrounding Grand Rapids neighborhood.)

“There’s just so much going on in downtown, especially right where we’re at. I mean, this is basically the entertainment district. So between the arena here and all the concert venues, and I hear there’s a new amphitheater going in, we’re right in the middle of all the hotels in downtown Grand Rapids, and then all the residential on top of that, I mean, it’s just one thing after another that just makes us a perfect fit for a Barrio. This is a little different than most cities where it actually feels like a neighborhood, which is where we like to be,” Hawley said.

(A June 16, 2022 photo shows the menus for Barrio Tacos in Grand Rapids.)

Barrio is known for its build-your-own taco menu. Hawley said the restaurant uses local ingredients as much as possible. Despite rising food prices and supply challenges, Barrio has kept its menu prices relatively level. Each 6-inch taco starts at $3.75 and house margaritas begin at $7.

“You can come into Barrio a couple times a week and we’ve maintained that through difficult times here, which I think makes us really appealing to the locals of downtown Grand Rapids,” Hawley said.

(Rows of tequila, whiskey and other spirits fill the back bar at Barrio Tacos in Grand Rapids.)

Like other Barrio locations, the Grand Rapids restaurant features a bar stocked with about 50 different bourbons and scotches and 80 varieties of tequila which staff will also use for craft cocktails and margaritas. This location will also sell branded and sealed alcoholic drinks for off-site consumption.

Hawley said he has hired just over 50 people to work at the Grand Rapids restaurant and he’s looking to add about 15 more full-time-equivalent employees.

“We’re almost there,” he said.

After opening week, Grand Rapids’ Barrio Tacos will be open 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hawley said it’s “super gratifying” to reach this grand opening.

“We put so much time and energy into this. To see it pay off today is what it’s all for. We got an opportunity to share it with our friends and family last night. Everybody loved what we did and (we’re) really excited to share it with people that may not have heard of us and had a Barrio experience. To come in and see what we’re about and have fun and have some drinks eat some really delicious fresh tacos and experience this with us, this is the rewarding part for myself and our team,” he said.

Barrio Tacos isn’t done with West Michigan. Hawley is finishing up lease negotiations to repurpose an old bank building on Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo. If all goes well, he said, that restaurant could open by the end of this year or early next year.

Hawley plans to open another Barrio Tacos next summer at Muskegon Lake’s Adelaide Pointe — a $250 million redevelopment that’s also expected to include a boat dealership, marina, condominiums and parks.

“We’re going to be right on the water, really cool second-story restaurant concept with a big outdoor deck overlooking the whole marina, so we’re really excited about that,” he said.

Barrio Michigan also operates restaurants in Traverse City and East Lansing.