Sixteen years ago, Edgar Barrios had just immigrated to the United States from Mexico. He worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Missouri.
“I did about everything — dishwasher, bar tender, cook — and I worked my way up to owning the place,” Barrios said. “Now, when I tell my kids something like that, it makes me feel different. It’s a big deal to get where I am right now.”
That’s because “right now” Barrios lives in Cedar Rapids and is the owner of two Mexican restaurants, including the new Palms in North Liberty.
But, he admitted, it’s a lot of work. He spends 15 hours a day at his establishments, and he said he likes to get involved in the food.
“If you go to Palms on Friday and Saturday, you will find me cooking in there,” he said.
Barrios said he came to own his first restaurant, Hacienda Las Glorias in Cedar Rapids, after starting there as a server 12 years ago.
In 2012, Barrios along with his brother Christian Barrios – who owns La Cantina Bar & Grill in Cedar Rapids – and a third partner saw North Liberty as an ideal location for more night life. They decided to open Palms as a night club in June, Barrios said.
“It looked to me like North Liberty didn’t have any night clubs or anything like that,” he said. “So we wanted to bring a little bit to town.”
After about four months, however, Barrios said he and his partners wanted to do more with the location.
“The (night club concept) was working fine, but it was dead space,” he said. “So we decided to make it into a restaurant because we’re already in the restaurant business.”
The owners closed Palms for a week at the end of November to revamp the establishment and ready it for food preparation, Barrios said. Palms opened in its new format on Dec. 1. On Friday and Saturday nights, Palms still transforms into a night club.
But during the day, Barrios said, it serves Mexican food. Barrios and his brother created the menu together.
“It’s pretty classy. It’s pretty nice,” he said. “Everything we have is different than what everyone else has right now.”
As for the future, Barrios said he might be interested in expanding his Eastern Iowa eatery empire.
“But I have way too much on my hands right now,” he said.
Owners: Edgar Barrios, Christian Barrios, Francisco Jasso
Company: Palms Bar & Grill
Address: 1215 Jordan St., North Liberty
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.