When beloved downtown West Palm Beach gastropub Gratify closed their doors last July, a little piece of champagne brunch died along with it. Where most of us saw a fleeting memory of happy hours past, however, Chase Woolard saw an opportunity. Already the Managing Partner of successful restaurant The Local in Coral Gables, Chase was looking to break into new territory, and the empty shell that Gratify left behind was the perfect fit.
But whatever you do, don't get the two confused.
We sat down with Chase who told us "Gratify had a great following, but we are a completely different concept. We want to be a neighborhood place where people can come and hang out."
Named after two of the most basic and necessary components of good alcohol and food, Barrel & Grain opened their doors very quietly at the end of March as to not overwhelm staff and take the time to perfect their craft. They are leaving it up to the locals to spread the word or stumble across their Datura location; until, of course, the Sunfest tsunami comes along and does the work for them.
But back to the good alcohol and food.
Chase comes from a big beer background and takes his craft brews seriously, and the restaurant boasts an impressive 50 rotating drafts and 200 bottles . The rumors are true that they can get beers the other guys simply can't. This stems from strong relationships with distributors and some breweries directly, ties that have been groomed over years of buying the finest craft brews. You are bound to find a new favorite beer you didn't even know existed.
But it's not all barley and hops, says Chase.
"As a whole, we don't ever want to say we appeal to only one group. I don't want to appeal to just beer nerds, which is why we have a ridiculous liquor selection (about 100 whiskeys). I don't want to appeal to just foodies, which is why we have a great bar. It makes for the best environment."
When it comes to the food, the emphasis is on quality and local ingredients. Chef Kevin Preble, previously of Park Tavern in Delray, has created a menu of dazzling twists on traditional bar foods. Take their grown up version of the mozzarella stick: Tempura Brie Sticks ($9) atop a truffle balsamic glaze, drizzled with local honey, and served with pears poached in a hefeweizen. Looking for something to wash these bad boys down with? Lucky for you, the staff is trained extensively on properly pairing one of their many beers with the perfect food counterpart.
The kitchen is a place where freshness lives, including produce from the West Palm Beach Greenmarket just blocks away every Saturday morning, and no freezer (except a small one for ice cream, more on that later) on the premises.
Chef Kevin considers his menu as "upscale food truck fare with a multicultural twist," inspired by his many travels abroad. Perhaps the dish that best embodies this concept is the Bahn Mi Taco ($12): A base 'schmear' of duck liver mouse is topped with amazingly rich duck confit, a hint of Siracha, and finished with a cucumber Asian slaw. It's what every duck aspires to be.
Chef Kevin takes the extra time to make from scratch things you might take for granted like house-made Grass Fed Beef Jerky ($9) and even from-scratch ketchup that pairs perfectly with the delicious Truffle Fries ($8).
Of course, he also cures his own bacon and even shows off his love of pork with a pig tattoo. The bacon makes it's way into the Bacon and Maple Sweet Waffles, a dangerous dessert that starts with a fresh waffle with pieces of bacon inside and is topped with dulce de leche ice cream, fresh whipped cream, and finished with a bourbon-maple glaze.
But Chef Kevin looks out for the veggies of the world too, providing vegetarian friendly fare that includes the truly memorable Country Fritatta ($11): Butternut squash prepared with vanilla bean and all spice combine with melted leeks, asparagus, and house-made crème fraiche to create a delicate savory and sweet balance that has become a fast favorite.
A permanent chalk board features daily specials, and even a different Eggs Benedict every week for the brunch crowd on Saturdays and Sundays. And brunch you shall! Barrel & Grain offers their delicious mimosas of the unlimited variety for a mere $9. What makes them so special? They are made with cider as opposed to cheap champagne. Get more of a buzz and less of a headache--a true victory for all.
Besides brunch on the weekends and lunch and dinner all week, Barrel & Grain is also providing us with happy hour glory. Every day of the week from 3-7pm, you can indulge in all draft beers, select cocktails and wines for half off and that same discount applies to the "Pub Grub" (which includes the Tempura Brie Sticks, Truffle Fries, and Jerky). Oh hey, and if you are 'In The Biz,' we just found your new hangout. Every day from 10-close and all day Sunday, enjoy half off EVERYTHING behind the bar.
With 14 years of restaurant experience behind him, Chase has figured out how to please his customers. He has taken to a strong presence on social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare. A 'like' or a 'follow' means more than just drool-worthy food pics, it might lead to free beer. Chase is looking to use social media as a way to give perks to dedicated fans through a weekly code word or trivia question.
The concept behind Barrel & Grain is one that Chase hopes to replicate and is planning to open three more in Florida by the end of 2015. "Longevity is what's important, we want to be in the area for a long time and open more places."
Chase wants Barrel & Grain to be a place where everyone is welcome. "I like restaurants and I like bars, this is a place I would hang out. When I'm not working, I want good beer and good food in a place I can have a conversation. We welcome everybody and we try to be a great place for anyone to hang out. That is the heart of what we do."
What are you waiting for!? Barrel & Grain is located at 125 Datura St., West Palm Beach.
For more information, visit their Facebook page, or call 561-833-2767.
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