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.