I’m not as familiar with the UWS so when Albert and I made plans to meet Michael and Art in their Upper West neighborhood, I had to take to New York Magazine’s reviews to find a suitable restaurant. I almost didn’t click the link for Barley and Grain because it sounded like some sort of vegan place. And I just don’t do vegan. I’m a carnivore. Roar.
I think the only reason I clicked on it was because the blurb mentioned it was from the same owners as Tangled Vine, a go-to UWS wine bar. When I clicked through I learned the restaurant name refers not to the food but to the key ingredient in whiskey. Now we’re talking. They have hundreds of whiskey/bourbon varieties and offer flights. They also have some serious cocktails like the one I tried that featured mezcal, bourbon, jalapeno, cedar smoke, and orange peel. The bartender actually burned a piece of cedar wood, blew it out, and covered the glass to allow the smoke to fill it up. It was a tasty party trick.
Michael and I both ordered pasta dishes (him the bolognese, me the mac and cheese) because it was a frigid night and we needed comfort food. We asked the waitress if they were good and she explained she wouldn’t really know because she doesn’t eat carbs. Of course you don’t. The wire for my earbuds is thicker than you. Whatever, at least she’s honest. Nobody gets to be a size 00 by eating pasta. We took our chances and both loved our orders. Pastas like that are easy to phone in, but they took the time to make sure they weren’t sloppy versions. Art and Albert ordered the brisket and chicken, respectively, and though I didn’t taste either, they cleaned their plates so I’m guessing they were good. We ordered three sides: brussels sprouts, pickled veggies, and rosemary fries. They were all fine enough but other than the fries (surprisingly since that’s not usually a standout) I wouldn’t bother with them.
If you’re into whiskey or bourbon, this is definitely a place to keep in mind. If you’re not, you’ll still find plenty on both the drink and food menus to keep you happy. The second you move into whiskey cocktails, I feel like places can quickly move into “grown up” territory, but Barley and Grain still felt sufficiently neighborhoody.