Behind chef Diana Barrios Treviño’s three San Antonio family restaurants is more than just authentic Tex-Mex and continental cooking. It’s the legacy of Viola Barrios, Diana’s mother, who became one of San Antonio’s best-loved chefs. The family business started in 1979 when Viola, recently widowed, decided to open a restaurant in an old garage, and named it Los Barrios. Barrios is not only the family name, but its Spanish meaning, “neighborhood,” seemed to be exactly right, given the welcome Viola gave to everyone who walked through her door. Even the food the Barrios family serves, from chalupas to ceviche, has always been casero, Mexican home-style cooking. And, in a city with a gazillion Tex-Mex restaurants, the Barrios style stood out, with the restaurant getting praise from The New York Times, Esquire, and CNN, in addition to being voted a local favorite dozens of times.
While the entire family worked hard as the restaurant grew, and then another, La Hacienda, was launched, it was Diana Barrios who worked by her mother’s side and took over the stove after Viola’s untimely death in 2008. In 2013, the family opened a third restaurant, Viola’s Ventanas, dedicated to their mother. Sharing some of the love and recipes, Diana also wrote Los Barrios Family Cookbook: Tex-Mex Recipes from the Heart of San Antonio.
She appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and has also had (and won!) a puffy taco Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The puffy taco is a Los Barrios specialty, which the likes of President Barack Obama got a chance to try during a Congressional picnic held on the grounds of the White House. The Barrios family was invited to represent the Southern part of the United States.
Carrying on Viola’s work goes way beyond the kitchen for Diana, who helped found Viola’s Huge Heart Foundation, which awards scholarships and other assistance to people in need. Daily, this chef follows her mother’s motto about her life and work, to carry it out with amor, fe, y alegría—love, faith, and joy.