Monday, January 23, 2012

Restaurant Review: Barley's Ale House No. 2

Barley's Ale House No. 2
Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub
Ale House No. 2
1130 Dublin Road
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 485 - 0BBQ (0227)
Mon - Thurs 11:00 AM - close (kitchen closes at 10 PM)
Friday 11:00 AM - close (kitchen closes at 11PM)
Saturday noon - close (kitchen closes at 11PM)
Sunday noon - close (kitchen closes at 8:30PM)

I've been to Barley's any number of times.  You'll note by the name that this review covers Ale House Number 2, which implies (correctly) that there's a number 1.  Both share the Barley name, both are microbreweries, and both are excellent in their own way, but that's where the similarity ends.  The other Barley's is downtown and I'll likely write about it later.

The first thing you have to understand about Barley's is that it isn't just a microbrewery - it's a pub.  You get food, drink and friendly camaraderie, and all three are delivered in good portion and fair value.  Barley's brewery is one of the very best in the area, and the various beers and ales are truly unique to Barley's.  So if you like BudBudLightMickMickLightMillerMillerLightEmGeeDee or Pabst and will not deviate from your established norm, please stay away.  You'll only do yourself a mischief and you'll disappoint your parish priest.  If, however, you have reached sufficient maturity that you'll keep things from your parents, by all means start at the beginning of the beer list and widen your horizons.  Your server can make suggestions if you're feeling overwhelmed.

Seriously, the beer selection at Barley's is extensive and both beer and ale tend to be strong flavors as well as high alcohol content.  Any guest beers that Barley's serves fit into this category very nicely.  Calculate your consumption at about half of what you'd normally drink.

Beef Brisket
The great secret about Barley's is the Saturday night beef brisket.  You'll never find a better brisket, even if you take your search South of the Mason-Dixon line.  Barley's starts the brisket preparation Friday morning with a dry rub of spices, then they begin smoking it.  By Saturday night the brisket is ready, and if you pass up the brisket you're truly doing yourself a disservice.  The rest of the menu is good, and I've had their ribs and can recommend them with confidence to anyone who likes barbecue, but as good as the ribs are they'll never be as good as the brisket.  I also recommend the sauerkraut balls and the smokehouse chili.

The service at Barley's is solid.  I've never seen the place when it wasn't busy, and I've never had to wait an overly long time for food or drink.  One thing that impressed me about Barley's is that the serving staff does not waste time making excuses.  I abhor a server that whines to me about the place being busy and the kitchen being backed up; isn't that the goal of any business, to get a lot of customers all the time?  Why is it that a busy restaurant is often bad for the individual customer?  At Barley's they anticipate a packed dining room and plan accordingly.  Servers are generally knowledgeable about the beer selection, although very few can rattle off the entire list of available beers.  If in doubt, consult the bartender.

As I mentioned, Barley's is a pub.  It's noisy, crowded and it can get hot inside.  There are HD TVs so you can watch a game as you're inclined to do so.  The crowd at the bar will cheer their favorite team.  The noise and the heat can be oppressive to me, and after dinner I've well and truly had enough of having to shout to make myself heard by the person sitting next to me.  This situation is not due to poor acoustics or bad construction of some sort, nor is it due to a particularly unruly crowd; it happens when you get a lot of people and beer together at once.  My caveat here is that you shouldn't expect a quiet place for dinner.

I like Barley's and I expect to eat there again, next time I'm in Columbus.  I'm going to try and arrange a Saturday night brisket dinner.

In summary:
  • Ambiance: 7
  • Service: 8
  • Food: 8 (10 if you have the brisket)
Overall Rating: 8

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