Barrel House American Bar offers an eclectic menu with a French twist. By Anna and David Kasabian // photographs by Anthony Tieuli
The North Shore restaurant renaissance that spawned so many notable eateries in the past few years has taken another leap forward with Beverly’s Barrel House American Bar.
The dining room is airy and comfortable, with an alluring cast-pewter bar along one wall, a commanding red banquette dominating the opposite wall, and a communal, high-top “family table” down the middle. The room exudes enough nostalgia to feel authentic, yet it sparkles with a few modern touches to feel fresh. The charming tin ceiling is original, the sturdy hardwood flooring is reclaimed, and a flattering glow from modish-looking sconces makes for excellent mood lighting.
If it’s true that the best restaurants serve what their chefs truly love to eat, then Barrel House’s classically French-trained Chef Patrick Shea is a certifiable eccentric. The only notion that seems to hold his far-ranging menu together—it spans raw bar, small plates, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrées, sides, and desserts—is that it really has to taste good. Hence, the likes of roasted bone marrow, “Silly Pickles,” octopus carpaccio, and smoked chicken thighs appear on the same menu, which makes eating here a lot of fun.
We focused on small plates to start, including the house charcuterie, and the outrageous Kurobuta Pork BBQ “Ribz” with Carolina BBQ Sauce. Next, Ménage à Foie, a pageant of precious Hudson Valley duck liver preparations, including torchon with cherries, mousse with apple compote, and seared rum-poached peaches, each done perfectly. The poutine is Chef Shea’s brawny take on the classic French-Canadian comfort food comprising gravy-bathed truffle fries with cheese curd, bacon, and an over-easy egg on top. For side dishes, we tried a passionate and authentic mac ’n cheese that’s way better than what we remembered as kids.
The strawberry crisp dessert is fruity and satisfyingly straightforward, especially compared to the miraculous “Twinky,” which is made of yellow cake wrapped in thin pretzel dough, then deep-fried, sliced, and plated with Nutella, ice cream, whipped cream, and crème anglaise. Like Barrel House itself, it’s an original and a classic at the same time.
Chef: Patrick Shea. Small Plates and Appetizers: Silly Pickles ($6), Charcuterie ($14), BBQ Ribz ($13), Ménage à Foie ($19), Poutine with Egg ($11). Sides: Corn Succotash ($6), Mac ’n Cheese ($6). Dessert: Strawberry Crisp ($9), Twinky ($10). Location: 252 Cabot St., Beverly, 978-998-4627.