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Monday, June 8, 2015

The Barrel Room Barrels Open Downtown

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge Fried chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • Fried chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries

Having left its original home at 620 Post Street, the Barrel Room Restaurant and Wine Bar has reopened downtown in a severe, formally balanced one-story building at 415 Sansome. (There is also a second location in Rockridge.)

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

click to enlarge House-made merguez sandwich - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • House-made merguez sandwich
They’re using the neat concept of throwing a spotlight on a particular cuisine — currently Latin America, with Italian coming up next — which filters down to the lists of cocktails, spirit flights, and wines (lots of mezcal, Mexican reds, and Chilean whites, as well as “obscure Latin American reds.”) Even more fun are the blind comparisons, six paired challenges where drinkers have to guess whether the, oh, Malbec in question is Lieu Dit or Zucchardi, on penalty of humiliation. There are also plenty of bottled beers, from saisons to quadrupels to sours, with an additional nine on tap.

On the food side of things, there are lots of Latin American things to choose from — if you stick with the small plates. Salt cod croquetas, ostiones al pil-pi, roasted manchego, and ahi tuna ceviche are all the stuff of the gastropub of our dreams. The house-made merguez sandwich was good, if a little overdressed, and the fried chicken sandwich lacked a certain crunch even if the flavor was A-OK. (Mama lil’s peppers are spicy little things!). Any doubts that there was an issue with the fryer evaporated as I ate the sweet potato fries, though; they were easily the best I’ve had in years.

The one major drawback is that the Barrel Room is fairly expensive, with both the small plates and the large plates (two-thirds of which are either salads or sandwiches) averaging north of $15. Although many of the wine flights represent a good value, even among bottled beer, it’s hard to stay below the $8 mark. (Now it’s becoming clearer why they left the TL for the FiDi.) Still, if a $60 lunch for two isn’t out of the question, the improved Barrel Room is a solid bet.

The Barrel Room, 415 Sansome, 415-946-6900.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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