Burger and Barrel vs Bell, Book and Candle
Although the Burger and Barrel and Bell, Cook and Candle aren't restaurants really comparing apples to apples there is something to be said for the differences in one blog post which I will get to.
Let's begin with Burger and Barrel. Burger and Barrel recently opened up on the corner of Houston and Mercer. The owner is John MacDonald, another serial entrepreneur. Not only did John open up the Merc Bar in 1993, he went on to open up Chinatown Brasserie, Lever House and Lure Fishbar (Canteen prior to that) which goes underneath the topic restaurants in his portfolio. That wasn't enough so along the way he got into the publishing business with the launch of the style magazine City. Publishing on paper wasn't enough so he launched the idea of Tasting Table raising money from Bob Pittman. I am a huge fan of Tasting Table. Just one other side business, EBoost, which is a daily health booster sold at the top boutique hotels across the country. You have to love a guy who has created a variety of businesses in different arenas…and btw, most of them have had success and still exist today. That alone wants me to love the food at every location he is involved with.
We went to Burger and Barrel on Thursday night. The place has a great clubby vibe. The food is simple stick to your ribs cooking. Nothing omigod but certainly some highlights. The short ribs tacos are really good. Nice for sharing around the table. The meat has been cooking for hours and has a good kick mixed with a crunchy taco filled with cheese, lettuce and a pico de gallo sauce.
The other highlight is the fried chicken. Definitely not something I order frequently but we split everything on Thursday night. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. What else do you want in fried chicken?
Overall, Burger and Barrel is exactly what you expect it to be. A good pub with good food. Nothing fancy nothing over the top just right. Now let's move on to Bell, Book and Candle.
Bell, Book and Candle recently opened on West 10th Street in a spot that used to be a Laundromat. The concept is farm to table. They source 60% of their ingredients from their roof (obviously not during the snow) and the other ingredients come from a Greenhouse in Pennsylvania. Conceptually sourcing organic and local producers for the food. There is no doubt that this is a trend that will continue to grow as more and more restauranteurs want to use local producers.
The menu at Bell, Book and Candle is impressive so I was expecting really good food. Where at Burger and Barrel my expectations were just a really good burger and that was exactly what I got. The food at Bell, Book and Candle was beyond disappointing. On the bright side, I like being reminded every so often that the restaurants that I sometimes believe could be even better are really fantastic. You have to eat somewhere that just isn't so great to realize how great other places are.
Fred had the crispy oysters with celery root and a buttermilk dressing that just didn't pop. I had the beet salad. Roasted cubes of beets and cubed pieces of eggplant with slices of Burratta. Not a great presentation and I could have served this at home.
For the main courses, I tried their surf and turf of the day. Grilled lamb chops with one large scallop. I can't even remember what the scallop was served with but it wasn't tasty and one bite was all I needed. The lamb chops weren't that interesting either. Fred had the grilled hanger steak served with blue cheese and onion marmalade and fries. Nothing here to write home about either. There was no edge or flavor to the food.
We did some desserts which I won't even share. Both Bell, Book and Candle and Burger and Barrel are listed as gastropubs under Menupages. Burger and Barrel hits the spot exactly where you are expecting it will. Bell, Book and Candle has taken a big idea and created a sweet spot on West 10th Street but the food doesn't make the grade. An interesting menu but bland food. Alas, I was hoping it was going to be good but concepts have to still taste good.