Little Barn

1050 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8501 • littlebarnct.com

I dig the roadhouse vibe of this place, but unlike the Patrick Swayze movie, this one dispenses with the bikers and the topless women and replaces them with a setting that’s civil enough to take the kids. Service is also kid-friendly and attentive. Making it a solid go-to for a family dinner with the young’uns.

I partook in the Shroom Burger, which I have to say was very good. Everything you would want, but nothing more than you might expect. Served with decent helping of sweet potato fries that’ll hit the spot.

The fish tacos were messy as all get out and lacking in the salsa/heat department, but the fish was perfectly cooked, so at least there’s that. Not the place I would go for Tex-Mex though when you’ve got Bar Taco just up the road.

For beer, I tried the Mama’s Yella Pils, a Czech inspired pilsner that could use a little more inspiration, because it ain’t no Urquell or Staropramen.

Hit and miss for certain, but I’m definitely a fan… in the right context.

The Ultimate Beer

McSorleys-light-and-dark

Staropramen

While Pilsner Urquell is the more well known Czech beer in the U.S., and rightly so, it’s pretty special, its Czech brother Staropramen might just be even better. Not just because one is a pilsner and the other lager. And not just because it’s harder to come by, and therefore more elusive and special- because it stands as well on its own as it does with food. Urquell, while terrific in both respects as well, falls a hair short by itself, because it’s so much lighter, which makes for an ideal meal companion, and drinkability, but on its own the flavor is not so impressionable that it would ever have you savoring the aftertaste. Whereas Staropramen is all of that and a bag of yum. Crisp. With a longer, more complex taste. And a much stronger finish that could put most Olympic gymnasts to shame.

 

McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured)

For my micro brew bestie I have to give it up to McSorley’s in New York City. It’s the oldest bar in Manhattan offering up only two beers since 1854, McSorley’s Ale and McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured). Served in biblical proportions. No seriously. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a Noah’s ark business model. They only serve their beers in twos. And while both are great, I’m a bit partial to the dark. It has a Negro Modelo vibe about it, but with a little more ester to it. If you’re in NYC for a visit or live there, this place is a must for a glass of beer. Well, technically two glasses. Or four… Or six… They go pretty quickly.

 

Sapporo

If you’re getting sushi you have two options as far as I’m concerned. Sake or Sapporo. Screw Asahi and save the green tea for dessert. Sapporo is the perfect companion. Made remarkably smooth with the use of rice, which is perhaps part of why it grooves so well with Japanese cuisine. In fact, it goes so well, it’s almost as if it were purposefully engineered to go specifically with sushi. Well, be it the case or not, suffice it to say that Sapporo is the Sonny Bono to raw fish’s Cher.

 

Guinness

I’m not exactly sure why any other stout beer exists, because they’re all trying to be like Mike. And they all fall miserably short. Tasting like the hops took a shit in your glass. But not Guiness. Oh no. This stout manages to caress your buds in a lather as smooth as milk. But the craziest thing is that while most stouts are very heavy and highly caloric, Guinness is neither. The only nit is that she’s a temperamental brew. She doesn’t like to sit around, so make sure you’re getting your pint from a place that pours a lot of it, otherwise don’t even bother. And while the bottle and can versions are much improved over the years, they still don’t compare to the likes of a well-poured pint from the keg.

 

Blue Moon

This newest comer to the list exploded onto the scene about ten years ago and shook up the beer category so much that it needed Dramamine to recover. In fact, this Belgian Wheat is so damn good it’s the only one that I keep stocked in my house. Goes great with seafood, burgers, dogs and pizza. And while it’s often served with a slice of orange, don’t discount it as a fruity, fru fru brew. It’s just as great sans slice, and better than every other Belgian beer I’ve had.

 

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

As the only non-mass beer on the list, I feel the need to go above and beyond to say just how special this beer is. If you should be so lucky as to happen upon a tap, be sure to order it. Spare no expense, because it will pay for itself on the first sip. You have never tasted anything this special in beerhood. Forget the opulence of Chimay, although I must admit it sort of reminded of the creamy Belgian, but instead of deriving its cool from brewing it in a monastery, Kentucky pulls a trump card and brews it in actual bourbon barrels, as the name suggests. The result layers the beer with incredibly complex notes that subtly spring to life in your mouth. Balanced by a hint of sweetness, the takeaway becomes smooth and creamy. And while the alcohol content is a bit higher than the others, it’s surprisingly easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.

Smithfield

138 W 25th St. New York, NY 10001(212) 929-9677smithfieldnyc.com

Chicken-Waffles1

To quote Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Fortunately this is where I step in and tell you, because while the looks of this place scream typical sports bar, there is a gastronomic star lurking beneath its flat screen televisions.

Let’s start with the most noteworthy of details, for example Pilsner Urquell on tap, served in bulbous glass steins of awesomeness. So right off the bat you’re ahead of the curve, but sit tight, because Smithfield is about to drop an Ultimate or two.

The first being the shrimp buns, so nice we ordered them twice. And not only are they an Ultimate, but they could teach the dim sum in Chinatown a trick or two. A perfect contrast in textures and flavors. I practically wanted to curl up in the bun and spoon the shrimp I loved it so much.

The other borderline Ultimate was the mac ‘n cheese. Served in a cast iron skillet with just the perfect amount of crunch to gooiness. And the blend of cheeses was up there with the best of them. So well balanced it’s enough to make Chicago tightrope walker Nik Wallenda green with envy.

After that, things slid a touch toward expected, like the pulled pork sliders, which were good, but not great, and ideally needed a little slaw.

The Jameson wings were also good, but compared to the rave reviews fell miserably short, mainly because they are FAR from spicy, so false advertising there.

And bringing up the rear were the flatbread/pizza and fries. Both sounded much better than they are- damn your wisdom Gump!

Dessert, however, rallied back to greatness with a very strong apple crumble and an okay-by-comparison chocolate torte.

But as hit and miss as this sounds, for a sports bar, I have to tip my hat, because the hits where as big as anything on Sportscenter.

4 teeth