Bainbridge Street Barrel House

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Nov. 21, 2012

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Bainbridge Street Barrel House offers a variety of menu items, including snacks, an assortment of fries, salads, sandwiches and small plates.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Plans for autumn Sundays in our house begin with brunch. We will either go out or feast on bagels, hot from Spread Bagelery’s wood-burning oven with nova, cream cheese and a platter of tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

One morning I received a tweet from Bainbridge Street Barrel House about French toast and omelettes being served. Edward arrived home too late for brunch. Since the Eagles had a late afternoon game, we decided to take a ride to Queen Village to enjoy a bite and some football.

I could not believe my eyes. This corner restaurant is bright, open and airy with a bar, several televisions and comfortable seating. There were a number of families having dinner. Since the place was not dark inside, parents figured it kid-friendly.

I had hoped by now that the snacks and small-plate-themed restaurants had jumped the shark. Barrel House lists snacks, small plates, salads and sandwiches. We sampled many items. All were too expensive and much too small.

The beer menu went on for page after page. Big never means better. Our waiter helped me to decide on a bottle of German beer ($8), which was OK. Edward sipped a small glass of American Pinot Gris ($10), and dinner began.

There were few items that Sandy took a shine to, so Edward and I did the navigation. We instinctively knew she would be happy sampling meatballs and tucking into a burger.

The meatballs ($9) consisted of five overcooked pieces the size of a malted milk ball. They lacked juiciness and were so hard on the outside, we couldn’t cut them. A tiny dab of feta cheese, about six raisins and a teaspoon of skordalia did not turn this mess into a Greek meze.

The lamb liver terrine ($9) consisted of a thin slice of dry, flavorless ground lamb, which should have been wrapped in fat before it hit the oven. A dousing of salt and pepper did not help. The small plate also contained two small slices of toasted French bread and a few roasted white grapes. Someone forgot the parsley and capers.

In another dish, a 1-inch piece of pork belly ($9) was nicely cooked and served with collards and mushrooms. Unfortunately for us, there were not enough collards and mushrooms here. The portion was miniscule.

We sampled the quinoa salad ($10) and root vegetable salad ($7). I like big salads or at least a mid-size one. This dish lacked flavor and texture. A few slices of avocado, a touch of roasted beets and carrots were added to the mix. Horseradish dressing was listed on the menu, but we could not detect it. It was downright bland.

I like to bite into good root vegetables. This one consisted of a tablespoon or so of tiny cubes of carrots and parsnips with a sprig or two of frisee, a hint of bacon bits and a poached egg. This twist on the classic salad from Lyon was dreadful.

I never thought a restaurant could send out less than mediocre sandwiches but alas, it happened at Barrel House.

The falafel burger was a pile of tasteless mush ($9). Falafel must be nicely seasoned and crisp on the outside. It came on a kaiser roll with a small mound of mediocre fries.

Sandy likes a good cheeseburger but the purist’s version ($10) was an embarrassment. The beef was cooked medium-rare, but you had to look closely to discover about a teaspoon of flavorless cheddar that melted into a Cheez-Whiz consistency.

If things could not get any better, the Barrel House burger ($12) came on a stale and hard roll. Off it came. Two beef patties were separated by a teaspoon of melted Muenster and topped with a hot pepper-cucumber relish and mustard laced with beer. Fries come with all of the sandwiches.

Service was uneven, although our main waiter was a nice guy. The menu is all over the world with French, Italian, Greek and American fare. More focus is needed as is more care in the kitchen.

One tip of the toque to Bainbridge Street Barrel House.


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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Anonymous said... on Nov 22, 2012 at 12:47AM

“I have been reading your reviews for a number of years, in fact, my husband and I love to chat about them. But this is ridiculous. This place has been open barely 3 weeks. A review this quick is disrespectful (especially since it is based on one visit). Maybe things are not perfect, but there is an excellent chance that things are being tweaked as the restaurant progresses. These reviews have disrespected many places, not just this one. I hope people find them amusing (as I do) and do not take them seriously.”

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2. Fred said... on Nov 22, 2012 at 07:09PM

“Anonymous #1, if the reviewer gives every place a free pass, then this column has no use. She told it like it is and did not do so disrespectfully. Yes, I find the reviews amusing, but they are helpful and usually on the mark.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Nov 22, 2012 at 11:28PM

“no one should get a free pass, i just think it is ridiculous to review a place after being open less than 3 weeks and only visiting it once. she told it like it is for one visit. A free pass is not the same as a fair judgement. do you think one visit is fair? and i have read reviews of other places that have just opened, i am not just concerned about this establishment. it is unfair and disrespectful.”

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4. Fred said... on Nov 23, 2012 at 09:05AM

“Possibly unfair, but not disrespectful. Your point is valid about early reviews and one visit. The reviewer's repeat visits always seem to be years later (sometimes 10-20 years!). She doesn't have to identify every ingredient and it's origin lile LeBan of the Inquirer (though she sometimes does), but she could do multiple visits like LeBan does.

Then again, this is a low-budget community newspaper and we're lucky to have a restauranr reviewer at all.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Nov 23, 2012 at 12:27PM

“She is a little absurd with her reviews. She likes big salads! She likes to eat.”

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6. Fred said... on Nov 23, 2012 at 02:18PM

“And she's got integrity. She won't hold back from criticizing her own sister for narrow tastes, and she admits her biases about dark lighting, jewish-style food, martinis, fried foods, p.e.i. mussels, extra virgin olive oil, etc.

I'll take a transparent reviewer who likes to eat over a diplomatic taster.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Nov 27, 2012 at 04:05PM

“Um, who is Sandy?”

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8. Anonymous said... on Nov 27, 2012 at 06:37PM

“everyone who reads these reviews should do so as if they were a comedy. phyllis has no finesse in her articles, a freshman journalism major in college could do better on their first try. the review should have found someone new years ago. its no wonder that community newspapers are doing so poorly when they have columns like this being printed, written by an archaic, lazy writer. the article is just the grumblings of a cranky old lady.

every review is garbage, HIRE SOMEONE NEW ALREADY!!”

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9. Anon ## said... on Nov 27, 2012 at 08:35PM

“I was here with a group on opening night and the beer and service are good. The problem is poor cooking skills and high prices for the food. I suggest they either hire a top-notch chef capable of doing the menu justice or else they simplify the menu and reduce the prices. I like the place and I hope it succeeds. I will give it another try in a few months and see if the situation improves.”

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10. Fred Goldstein said... on Nov 28, 2012 at 08:17AM

“To Anonymous#7:
Um, who are you? Um, hiding behind an anonymous post are you? Um, why didn't you ask who Edward is? Um, is that because you damn well know who both of them are from reading prior reviews? Um, do you mind if I laugh my ass off at you?”

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11. Dee said... on Dec 3, 2012 at 05:22PM

“I agree with the review. The food at Barrel House is pretty lame - like what you would expect from an airport bar and grill, but no better. I don't see it improving - unless they get a new menu and a new chef. It's a let down.”

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12. Fourt O'Ques said... on Dec 6, 2012 at 11:03PM

“tl;dr when she's right, she's right; when she's wrong, it's funny.

Fred got it right — Phyllis' reviews are fairly accurate. She's at least able to see these restaurants for what they are — past all the hype to the actual service, kitchen quality, and, most importantly, quantity. Paying over $10 (w/t&t) for a boring, tiny plate is something I avoid at all costs — if you're gonna skimp on the food, at least amuse me in the presentation. If she can steer me away from one bad meal, the column's worth reading. I don't see the inky delivering down here for free.
That being said, her reviews can, at times, get caught up on inane, inconsequential details. Some of her best reviews come across as Hunter S. Thompson-esque journeys into a bizarre counter-reality that only she, Edward, and Sandy can see.”


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