Barley & Board
At the risk of sounding, well unsound, I’m going to attempt to paint you a picture of how I feel about Barley and Board, one of my favorite restaurants and somewhere We go regularly. When we first moved to Denton from Denver, I was worried that I’d be giving up certain food standards I’ve grown to have, especially after living in Cities like Seattle and on the Central Coast of California (wine country). I have no problem admitting that I am a food snob, and even worse I am a service snob from years of waiting tables. I’m not saying I’m impossible to please; in fact, I only have two demands for eating out. First and foremost was the service knowledgeable and friendly? And second, did the price point match the experience? Many times though as foodie culture has erupted, what we have begun to see is pretentious menus at inflated prices that just don’t hit the mark. Restaurants that try to fool us with creative looking or sounding dishes that aren’t actually lovingly designed to coordinate and expand the palate. This is my biggest food fear, or wallet fear or both.
Naturally, we were interested in trying Barley and Board, the storefront has all the signs of quality and well thought out decor. Though I was excited to try it I was also hopeful it wasn’t all just an illusion. It was not. It is not, it is wonderful.
Upon entering we are greeted by three things, a light and open atmosphere that seems purposefully designed to take you away. Natural wood and cabin-esque decor, that reminds me of both the mountains that I miss and the mid-century modern décor in my relentlessly cool Nana and Papa’s home. Secondly, our nostrils are pleasantly accosted with the aromas of garlic, roasting peppers, and coffee. Thirdly to our left is a nice young person saying hello and ushering us to a seat. I feel ushered because I’ve already lost all my senses due to the bewitching scents and story-book atmosphere.
We’ve sat. Our table elements are basics, beautiful glasses, white checked blanket napkins reminiscent of swaddling clothes, (they’re lush), and our server is already here with a bottle of water for our glasses. The servers are all nice looking, and friendly people, their uniforms are streamlined old-fashioned basics that are both casual and elevated at the same time. The energy in here is so calm and peaceful. The music finds its way to my ears, I think these people have stolen my playlist from the mid-2000’s, Band of Horses, The Shins… I’m just so happy. In this moment as I look around I am reminded of how precious and beautiful life is and all that I am grateful for, a tear begins to form in my eye, and I believe, like fully believe that here God has allowed me a glimpse of what Heaven looks like. And we haven’t even ordered yet
It is lunchtime so the evening menu is accompanied by extra lunch choices. As I peruse, our server is over talking about beer. My go-to beer for as long as I can remember is Miller High Life, the champagne of beers because as much as I am a food snob I am the opposite when it comes
to beer, I just typically like it. Instead of being made to feel foolish by a ton of arbitrary jargon from an elitist beer fanatic we are excitedly told about a couple of new beers they have on tap this week and offered a sampling of them. I so significantly appreciate the beer taste offer because I always want to ask but never want to be a bother. Because of this small gift we learned about the Peanut Butter Temptress, a delightful milk stout brewed with vanilla and conditioned on chocolate, peanuts and sea salt the end result is reminiscent of a peanut butter cup and it is exceptional. When asking a beer-related question instead of being told, “I’m not sure”, or “let me find out”… they just know, and that honest knowledge is a thing of beauty.
I ask about cocktails because cocktails at lunch are the mini vacations we get here and there and I love them. I waver between the camaraderie or a smash the server says they are both good but I go with the camaraderie, a raspberry and vodka and champagne situation. The tart-sweet elements are the perfect palate cleanser. I also try to anticipate my second drink order. I justify it by telling myself I’m writing a summary about this experience, it’s very important that I research all I can. Jeff orders one of the sampled beers.
It’s time, the moment of truth, our drink orders are in and it’s expected of us to choose a meal, or small bite, or large board. I want at least half of it, Jeff wants the other half. We will split each other’s so that helps but everything looks so good and we aren’t sure what to do. Should we try something new? I’ve been wanting to try different things, but we are such creatures of habit. They have a new ham sandwich I didn’t see on the menu last time; He’s been craving the Pork loin.
Me, “I want to try the blistered shishitos”.
Jeff, “that looks good, but what about the al pastor?”
Waiter “Have y’all tried our truffle portabella fries?”
He’s delivering our drinks, which is only going to result in a state of euphoria that will make the decision that much harder…. I panic, Jeff panics.
Me to our server “We’ll try them! And may we please try the blistered shishitos and al pastor as well”?
Jeff, “what’s happening?”
I’ll save you some time here, we get the two meals we were eyeing and the Mother Board as well. I will never hear the end of this, but totally worth it. It was awesome.
Jeff, “I know we are doing an article on this, but we can’t order like this every time we go somewhere”.
We receive the truffle Portobello fries and the blistered shishitos. The peppers are my favorite of the two, a charred bowl of peppers on top of a sriracha aioli and herbs, with just the right amount of salt. Apparently, the Shishito is considered a roulette pepper as every tenth one is the hot one, and ooh it was, but it was not overwhelming or intolerable it was just very, very flavorful. The truffle portabella was incredible; it had a significant crunch to it which was shocking as mushrooms tend to water. The bite was perfect and I’m enthralled by how they could have accomplished it. It comes with a sauce that is very complimentary to the fry and not overpowering.
We requested our al pastor with our entrees and board. The al pastor is an other-worldly level of flavor perfection that needs to be experienced. Served with a soft warm pita, crema, cucumber jalapeno relish, and a lime wedge. This combination really highlights the chef’s knowledge of how to compliment food as opposed to drowning out the flavor with too many accompaniments. This dish is quite frankly perfect.
Jeff had ordered the pork tenderloin, and I the Ham and Friends sandwich. Jeff’s Pork Tenderloin rests upon a bed of elote~ and wears a crown of crispy onions and baby cilantro. I watch him cut into the work of art to reveal a pink and tender middle. It’s so tender that the silverware does not make a clinking noise against the plate from any sort of meat push back. I take a bite as well, its succulent and the corn is sweet and crisp. My Ham and Friends sandwich is a ham and blackened chicken medley affixed upon a brioche bun, with just a smidge of the sriracha aioli. My first bite covers much of the taste bud bases, salty, sweet, spicy, and tangy. The blackened chicken is tender and flavorful, and the ham tastes of high quality, very fresh, top-notch.
We make our way to the “Mother Board”. Barley offers three Boards and the Mother is the one that has it all. Cured meats, two different kinds of cheese, giardiniera pickled in-house, pickles also in-house, a loaf of French bread, sweet and salty nuts, and a host of other goodies. On the side of the board is a jar of preserves, white peach, and apple. I survey the situation in front of me planning my perfect bite I take a slice of the baguette and spread a thin layer of mustard on it. I opt for the prosciutto and smoky blue cheese and form them atop the bread next I place a dried apricot on top of the meat and finish it off with the mustard seeds. I bite into my creation and there it is my mouth floods with pure joy, and my head hears a choir of angels singing.
There is delicious food, and then there is food that is intentional. Food lovingly curated for a specific purpose. Ingredients are chosen with pride and passion, artistically displayed for the enjoyment of the guest. This is an experience to be grateful for, this is a blessing and Barley & Board should be commended for their commitment to excellence in a field where good enough gets by. Barley & Board has developed the ability to feel as though you are on a vacation, and as if time is irrelevant and nirvana can be obtained. Their service philosophy transcends the meal, it feels kind, as if you are cared about as a fellow person, not as a customer or even paying guest. I feel treated the same as I treat a new friend I’ve invited over for dinner. To me, that’s an important feeling, especially at a higher price point. That being said, the prices here are very reasonable, especially for the amount of actual love going into this whole operation.
Barley & Board is a true gem in the heart of our town, nestled in our square. Their service and excellence share the same superior standards of Denton as a whole. What are some experiences that you’ve enjoyed here? What are your favorite restaurants in town that you would like us to visit and write about? We would love to hear from you!
Visit Barley & Board at 100 West Oak ST. Denton TX, 76201
Email us @howdoyoudenton and tell us some of your Denton Favorites!