The Barrelhouse Flat (Chicago)

I normally wouldn’t hit up such a happening place at its peak hour of operation, but I dove in head first on a Friday at 10pm and rubbed elbows with tragically hip yuppies, mostly actuaries, accountants, and attorneys, all bent on trying to impress each other with their well-(in)formed palates, their expertise in all the various bitters and herbal digestifs, and their ability to slobber on each other when the moment turns right.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of craft cocktails and I like attempts at excellence. The place has a good atmosphere and the staff are excellent and fun to chat up. It was just the crowd on a Friday that I could do much without.

The porchetta, the porchetta, the porchetta’s on fire.

I mowed down the porchetta sandwich, a hot and savory delight, which featured “herbs, parmesean cheese, and capers.” The sandwich came out piping hot, a nice surprise, as I’d rather have it served too hot and wait than have it served cold and wonder what it might’ve tasted like had it been served hot. And the savory character was also a welcome surprise, because it seems like the modern trend is to make everything sweet. This was confirmed by the pickles on the side of the sweet style, which I refuse to recognize as food. The bread was excellent, and there was a good meat-to-bread ratio, such that I wasn’t eating hunks of bread at the end (or spilled-out piles of meat). Also, I’m not a huge fan of capers, but they were a perfect choice for the sandwich.

After a few craft drinks, some from the menu and some based on bartender creativity, I ventured into the bathroom and found a Dyson Airblade hand dryer, so I knew I was in a highly-civilized place. I was lucky enough to grab a seat upstairs at the lounge bar and enjoyed a few more choice beverages until almost close, along with some fun conversations with the staff. The upstairs lounge is patterned after a speakeasy, I guess, and there is a billiard room with a custom-made table in the size of a coin-op table.

At times, craft bartending can smack largely of form over substance, which no doubt becomes necessary when a joint is hopping, but the staff members are all cordial, welcoming, and enjoyable to talk to, even about non-alcoholic topics. The Barrelhouse Flat is definitely worth a visit, and could be a fun regular spot on less-busy nights.

The Barrelhouse Flat on Urbanspoon

~ by jackjackson on July 30, 2012.

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