Martini Corner Improves (radically)
I've been to Barrel 31 twice -- once just before it opened, which doesn't count, and then back again for dinner, which does. On the "I'd GO BACK SCALE," it rates a return.
Especially if I can get "my" ex-Union Stationers over there for happy hour. Just the red chili glazed edamame will make everyone happy. Best. Edamame. Ever.
The atmosphere, though pretty loud (not unbearable), is a huge improvement over the Velvet Dog, the former occupant of the space at 400 E. 31st. Not that I don't miss the black (gray? who knows, it was always too dark to tell) velvet drapes of course. It's lighter, there's two (three really) levels, and the food is sure better.
But comparisons to the old place don't tell you much about the new, do they now? This place has sorta old-fashioned food with a definite twist. For instance, it's hard to find pork rinds ($4.5) anywhere isn't it? Or French Dip ala pig? (Three Pig Dip with pork belly, pulled pork, smoked bacon, whiskey braised mushrooms and onions served with pig-jus. $10.) Or devilled eggs -- with bacon and fried oyster on top $9. The shepherd's pie ($12.) is made with steak.
I've had all of the items pictured (which did not come with name tags in case you're wondering). They were all quite, quite excellent. The hamburger came out with the right pinkness, topped with a spready egg. They make their own skinny (hurrah...but still ask for them crispy) fries, potato chips, and onion rings. There are salads for the vegetarian in your group but the menu is pretty heavily meat focused. A good thing in my book.
Now you may know I've been known to savor a drink or two. I think they should do some work here, especially for a place called Barrel 31. They're inventive, but to my taste buds, not the best ever. Their Old-Fashioned *SS Kickin' didn't do it for me. With my free hand, however, I'd note all the names are creative: Jack & the Detox, Smashing Pumpkin, Hour Glass, Missouri Mule, Curl Up & Rye and so on. Some wines, more beers. Boiler makers. Something for everyone -- you'll just have try one (or two) yourself.