Part cavernous country bar, part bourbon bar, part steakhouse, and part party barn, The Single Barrel is a place seemingly content on dabbling. The first thing I thought was how strikingly big the room is, and how it’s designed for those eight wonderful cash-cow days each year when the Huskers have a home football game.
Advertisements on the coasters came as a shocking unpleasant surprise and reminded me of those hackish menus at The Cheesecake Factory where every other page is an ad. My Spidey sense was tingling.
I had a Manhattan and it was decent, very similar to how I make them at home. Then the cheesy bread came out and it was alright, but it comes in a paper wrapper and then you just have a piece of trash on the table until the bread’s gone. The bread certainly doesn’t need to be served with the paper, and it was some time before the server removed it.
The Single Barrel is stepping it up with locally procured ingredients and making salad dressings from scratch, better than what you often find at other steakhouses with the classic Chef Sysco salad: iceberg, dried-out red cabbage, and dried-out carrot shreds in a wooden bowl with a bottled, sweetened “Italian” dressing.
I started with a bowl of French onion soup, served very hot and savory. I didn’t need to add any seasoning, and they thankfully use Gruyere instead of the gross white “Swiss” you see at many places. My only complaint is that it’s a red-onion-only affair, and this imparted a sweeter taste overall. I prefer a mix of white, yellow, and red onions, but it was still good.
And then something interesting happens at The Single Barrel, because your napkin has only one fork in it: if you’ve used your fork for eating a salad or appetizer, you are asked rather aggressively by the server to keep your fork, even if it has a bunch of dressing on it, meaning that if you’ve ordered a steak after your salad, you’re obligated to lick off the dressing from your fork and use it when you eat your steak. This seems completely obnoxious and should change immediately. You should either get two forks in the napkin, or be presented a new fork with your entree. I’ve never seen anything quite so insulting at a restaurant which is trying to be “nicer.”
My entree was the beef medallions on mashed potatoes with Brussels sprouts and a mushroom gravy. I liked my dish quite a bit, and it was certainly plenty of food. The steak was tender even though thoroughly cooked, and the Brussels sprouts were cooked right and the gravy with the potatoes wasn’t to heavy. But this is the kind of dish that at a “nicer” restaurant screams for freshly-cracked pepper. The tables should have pepper mills or it should be offered without asking by the server.
My dinner companions each had medium-rare steaks, and they said they were indeed medium-rare and not overcooked, which is common at many other steakhouses. When we asked the server for Worcestershire sauce, our server acted like it was an unusual request, which I found quite unusual. One of the steaks was dry-aged for supposedly a month, but Ripshaw was suspicious of that, having eaten many dry-aged steaks in his time. He also claimed to be able to taste the gas-grill gas in the steak, something I didn’t notice but he has an excellent sense of taste.
I found the food to be generally very good, but the service gaffes and the issues with forks make The Single Barrel a work in progress. Our server brought out the dessert tray and asked if we wanted dessert while we were only halfway through our entrees. This is unacceptable as well. And our server put the check on the table a few moments later, making us feel rushed when it wasn’t a busy night. Also, we all ordered drinks at the start and they arrived after the salad and soup, which shouldn’t happen, either.
The Single Barrel must start putting two forks in the napkin before I go back, and they need to train the servers in basic dining service if they are to be considered a classier place in town.