It is certainly a good thing I like to run, because Austin is heaven for a Culinary Grad. food lover like myself, who happens to be dating a chef… To say we enjoy going out and eating/drinking at new places, would be an absolute understatement. We like to play a game called “OH MY GOD YOU’VE NEVER BEEN THERE? WE’RE GOING AFTER WORK” (yes the caps are completely necessary)
There are three main components I look for when I’m selecting a new place to eat… Good Food, Affordable Price, Enjoyable Atmosphere. Most importantly, the first two. Sometimes I find a place that is just wonderful enough for me to not care that I’m blowing a ridiculous amount of cheese on one meal. Barley Swine, is one of those places.
Barley Swine is a Gastropub near Downtown ATX that is simply divine. C and I were having a very interesting conversation about Molecular Gastronomy after watching a particularly intense episode of Breaking Bad (ahhhh ONLY THREE EPISODES LEFT!!!) when he discovered I’d never been to Barley Swine. Our next day off together, surely enough we marched down there so I could experience it for myself. I honestly had no idea what to expect. Gastropubs can range from delicious to over-the-top, please-stop-trying-so-hard.
Spoiler Alert: It was the best dining experience I’ve had in a seriously long time.
First arriving at the restaurant you’re welcomed and asked if you want to sit at a table or the bar. If you go during the dinner rush, getting a table will most likely mean cozying up next to complete strangers. Communal seating is all the rage these days in modern restaurants. We chose the bar out of habit, before I even realized the seating was like that… I’m so glad we chose the bar anyway.. It has a counter-top service that looks directly into the open kitchen. I always have a great time watching the chefs on the line. Hearing their kitchen lingo made me smile to myself. Gosh, I am such a restaurant nerd sometimes. Can you tell that’s pretty much the only industry I’ve ever worked in?
The menu changes frequently, it’s all about small plates and presentation.
I was staring at the menu when C said the best way to experience the restaurant, was to order 3-4 plates to share. I was completely on board, because so much of it was fascinating me. Terrifying me, but also fascinating.. haha. First, we decided to start off on drinks and a light sounding plate… I ordered a Hitachino Nest White Ale, and fell in love with the beer instantly. It’s like a blue moon, but SO MUCH BETTER. Since then, we’ve started carrying it at the restaurant I work at, I’m in heaven.
For our first nomz we decided on avocado mousse with beets, cucumber, harissa and popcorn.
Barley Swine defines the perfect restaurant experience for two!! From the moment the first plate arrives, you marvel at its artistry, and share your first bite, and then slowly savor the second, and then look at each other and say, “Oh, my.” Then the second plate arrives, and the two of you waste no time… You start wondering why all food isn’t presented this way….
For our second plate, we both instantly agreed on the Shitake Mushroom & Scrambled Egg Dumplings. Oh my gosh. This was so good. I’m a sucker for a delicious dumpling, and this was so different than any I’ve tasted before. The shitake complimented the dough perfectly. It was easily my favorite dish of the evening!!!
I was getting sort of full, but I was stoked that there were still two more dishes coming our way! I can’t remember the last time I was on a second course and ready for two more…. Third up to bat, was the wagyu steak with peppers, potatoes, dull pickle foam and a salsa verde. Another mouth-watering dish. Barley Swine, keep on doin’ your thaaaang. PLEASE!
I was fully, happy, and dangerously close to using the L word with Barley Swine at this point in the evening. It may or may not have had something to do with the multiple beers I was consuming, and the constant laughter from date night with C… But I was ready to give this place the “favorite restaurant in Austin” stamp… Then the final course came…..
We let our server recommend our last course, since he was so on the money the entire night… Once again he nailed it. The dish was called a “bowl of cereal” consisting of Chocolate mousse, malted barley, strawberries, and a dash of shredded coconut.
Oh. My. God. It was light enough to not make my fullness level go to the point of painful, but it was enough to satisfy the balance of savory and sweet for the entire meal. It was official. I wasn’t drunk off beer, I was drunk off food, for possibly the first time in my life.
All in all, I loved the experience at Barley Swine. The wait is well worth it, and oh there will be one… They don’t do reservations. You either appreciate this concept or you don’t, and you’ll either wait a long time or you won’t.
It’s an exquisite poem of food. And for me, that’s as good as it gets.
If you live in Austin, or ever make the trip to Austin, do yourself an your taste buds the favor of setting aside an evening for Barley Swine. You can thank me later
Have you ever been to a gastropub? Do you like the idea of small plates or do you prefer a larger entree?