I’ve been itching to brunch at Birch and Barley since they started serving a few months back. I’ve had dinner there once but heard very positive things about their all-day Sunday menu. Since it’s just across the street from my apartment, it’s a perfect spot for a midday meal after a lazy morning. Note, though, that reservations still are required several days in advance.
Rachel, Megan and I met up at 11:00 am on Sunday (it was already steamy out) and were seated inside. The outdoor patio would be great in cooler weather, especially when they open the garage door, making the restaurant one continuous indoor/outdoor room. [My favorite thing about Birch and Barley, and Churchkey upstairs, is the vibe.] Since the menu doesn’t change from 11 to 8:00 pm, there’s a great mix of breakfast classics and interesting lunch/dinner dishes. If you’re hungry for a burger or a sausage biscuit, you’ll find both there.
No matter what you pick, though, we’d recommend doing the boozy brunch, which includes a trio of donut holes (more on that in a second), two cocktails, an entree and tea/coffee for $28. It sounds like a lot, but once you order a Bloody Mary and a meal, you’ve already spent almost that much. Plus, the donut holes are an absolute must.
I posted a few weeks back on homemade donuts, but, let’s be honest, those were nowhere near as delicious as the lemon poppyseed, chocolate frosted and toffee-bacon varieties we sampled. Toffee-bacon sounds weird, yes, but that was far and away the favorite with little bits of bacon baked on top. I wonder if you can order a dozen to go…
Megan and Rachel started with Bloody Marys–Megan ordered the classic, while Rachel chose a gin-based variety. They agreed that Rachel’s was more refreshing and the classic a bit spicy, but both were good. Since I’m not a Bloody Mary fan, I had a mimosa made with apricot juice. Going back to an earlier post on creative cocktails, I’m definitely in favor of switching things up from the standard orange juice option. For our second round, Megan and I tried the grapefruit mimosa, which was a little tart and perhaps easier to drink than a super-sweet cocktail.
We had to be strategic about our entree orders because we wanted to try everything on the menu. Rachel ordered the omelete–filled with asparagus, caramelized onions and creamy goat cheese–and accompanied by a green salad and hash browns. We couldn’t quite figure out the seasoning in the hash browns (chives? scallions?) but they were a nice departure from the piles of shredded potato you come to expect.
Megan chose the Grand Marnier French toast, served with strawberries, mascarpone cheese and bacon. The toast was extremely thick and light–it was more like angel food cake or pound cake than standard sliced bread. I think what made the dish, though, was the mascarpone. It added a sort of smooth and tart flavor that I really appreciated since I’m not a big syrup person. Megan’s reaction? French toast isn’t the forgotten food at Birch and Barley.
Finally, I really wanted to order chicken and waffles but definitely hesitated–I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a strange combination. I’m from the South, but I always thought chicken and waffles was a joke and didn’t exist as an actual meal. Man, am I glad I know better now. Basically, this dish consists of a giant Belgian waffle, hunks of fried chicken, candied pecans and maple syrup drizzled on top. Something about the savory crunch of the chicken (which the chef had kindly cut off the bone) combined with the soft waffle and the sweet syrup…I think we all agreed that this was a highlight and something we’ll seek out at other places. If you’ve had great chicken and waffles elsewhere, let us know!
Overall, we have very positive feelings about Birch and Barley. Our one complaint was that the entrees came out very quickly after the donuts, and our drinks were served last, but that’s a minor point and probably has something to do with the fact that we were one of the first tables to be seated. Also, we managed to finish off each meal and not feel overwhelmingly full.
We definitely will be returning for round #2 soon. Do we live in the coolest neighborhood ever? Probably.
*Sorry for the poor picture quality–my old point-and-shoot doesn’t do the food justice.