The Salt Lake restaurant scene seems to be recovering from the recession, with several new places which opened over the summer. I've written reviews on the new spots Eva and Toasters. Upcoming will be something on Jimmy Johns. Today, I'll write about Barbacoa.
Since Barbacoa opened in 1997, Cafe Rio in 1998 and Costa Vida some time thereafter, and all three restaurants have the same business model and strikingly similar menu and atmosphere, I will describe Barbacoa in comparison to these competitors.
Cafe Rio has expanded the farthest with the largest number of locations. It's popularity likely due in part to its large menu selection and (so far as I've experienced) the ability to mix ingredients in every which way and it will taste good. Costa Vida offers ingredients/components with stronger flavors, which with the wrong assortment can create a meal that makes your taste buds squirm. Whenever I order at Costa Vida, I tell myself to "think bland" and try to select ingredients that will work well together.
Barbacoa has a more narrow menu selection - notably no enchildas or enchilda-style - yet a broad meat selection. There are three types of pork, two beef and one chicken. The burrito is served large and tightly wrapped--which amazingly enough stays wrapped as you hold it in your hands (knock on wood).
The downtown location is configured such that the line stretches across the windows on Main Street, which lead me to believe that it would take a long time to get my food, but I've realized that the line moves quickly and, although it sometimes runs all the way to the door, it's not too long.