Barrel 44 has quickly become a go-to restaurant in the Short North for many people during their short four years of existence. Some know Barrel as a whiskey bar first and an eatery second, and technically speaking, they’re correct. With over 100 whiskeys available on any given day, their booze selection far outnumbers their food menu choices.
The same holds true for the newer Bexley location, which has been open for around six months now. Whiskey is a big focus, but this space feels more restaurant-centric. Which is good news for someone like me who looks first for a good bite to eat.
Barrel 44 in Bexley largely takes the familiar route of “updated American bar food” with a lot of burgers, sandwiches and pizzas to choose from. The creative use of ingredients and regional range that runs from Atlantic Seafood to Midwest Comfort to Classic Cajun to Pacific Pan-Asian gives the non Whiskey aficionado plenty of reason to dine here.
The Beef and Pork Satays ($9.00) can be found on the extensive small plate menu and is a dish of skewered pork tenderloin and flatiron steak strips marinated in a Thai peanut sauce and grilled, and served with a small wonton cup of cold teriyaki noodles. The meats were cooked well, though I found the pork a bit easier to eat off the skewers (the steak was a little chewy and gave a fight without a knife). The peanut sauce was amply applied and had a heat that seemed tame at first bite, but slowly built to a sweat-breaking level as the meal continued. The cold noodles seemed like a nice break from the heat, but their sauce was too heavy on soy, and the saltiness was a turnoff. Otherwise, this was a nice platter of grilled meat that was big enough to share with two or three people.
The Crab Cake Sliders ($9.75) are served as a pair, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, basil, sauteed onions, a remoulade sauce and served with a side of fries. The sliders were sizable and filling, closer to a “small hamburger” portion, which was impressive. The crab cakes themselves were breaded nicely and filled with chunks of crab meat. The toppings were a nice spin on traditional fish sandwich ingredients, giving these sliders some character without being gimmicky. The fries were freshly cut and fried to a medium brown. I found some to be slightly inconsistent with a few being mushier and a few being a little more potatoey, but those outliers were fairly minimal and I found this to be a nice plate of bar food for less than $10.
The Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Flatbread ($9.90) is an oblong pizza topped with shrimp, andouille sausage, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, capers and red tomato sauce. Unlike the satay, this dish was spicy from bite number one. The red tomato sauce was hot and chunky, almost resembling a mexican-style salsa, but the shrimp and sausage combo certainly had more of a jambalaya vibe going on. The pizza crust was a medium thickness, cooked to a crisp on the bottom but with a softer interior next to the toppings (I assume it was wood oven fired due to the imbalance of the blackening of one side of the crust). Once again, an impressive update on traditional bar food for less than $10. I would certainly recommend this pizza to friends and foes alike.
While the styles vary quite a bit from dish to dish at Barrel 44, the one consistent factor is quality. On my visits to both locations, I’ve not yet encountered a dish that I haven’t enjoyed. Even if you’re not a whiskey drinker, you owe it to yourself to give this new Bexley restaurant a go.
Barrel 44 is located at 2232 East Main Street in Bexley Ohio. More information can be found online at www.barrel44.com.