11/19/16—Nicole’s Dutch friends were in town visiting from the Netherlands, so it only seemed appropriate to introduce them to the DC institution that is boozy brunch. I had been meaning to try the brunch at Barley Mac, the new restaurant from the owners of Atown and Don Tito’s—two pretty iconic drinking and brunching establishments in Arlington. Atown is known for taking the meaning of Sunday Funday to an entirely new level; the famous Sunday brunch is complete with a house DJ, an endless buffet, bottle service, sparklers, massive projector screens for football viewing, and occasionally a little person dressed as a fireman, driving a tiny firetruck and sounding the alarm as he delivers bottles to tables. I didn’t expect Barley Mac to be anywhere near that level, but I was curious to see what they had in store.
The inside of the restaurant had an industrial feel, but with some carefully placed details that gave the space some character. I particularly appreciate the rope-wrapped columns.
The first thing that I was struck by on the menu was how incredibly cheap the drink prices were. Virginia has a law against bottomless drink specials, so it’s hard to find deals that are comparable to the flat rate bottomless specials you can find at most DC brunches. With mimosas for $1, MANmosas (mimosa + vodka) for $2, and Bloodies for $4, I might actually end up spending less for the same number of drinks here than I would have at a bottomless brunch in DC. SCORE! Also, the $1 mimosa offerings included several delicious-sounding flavor combinations to choose from, including: black raspberry, passion fruit, strawberry basil, and blueberry lemon. The first two had orange liqueur added, and the latter two had gin added. I ordered a Bloody Mary, which was made with bourbon (this place was all about its bourbon & whiskey), housemade Bloody Mary mix, and topped with sundried tomato, pancetta-stuffed olive, a slice of chorizo, and lime. The Bloody Mary itself was kind of meh, but the toppings were yummy. We also ordered the strawberry-basil and blueberry-lemon mimosas, both of which were delicious and absolutely worth the whole $1 we paid for them.
For our appetizers, we tried the Coccoli and the Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. The Coccoli were little crispy dough balls, served with stracchino cheese, prosciutto di parma, and truffle honey. This dish had the right balance of sweet and salty, thanks to the honey and the prosciutto. The little dough balls were fluffy and buttery.
We couldn’t NOT order the mac & cheese at a place with “mac” in the name. The creamy Vermont white cheddar perfectly coated the cavatelli pasta, and the bread crumbs and chives sprinkled on top added a little extra bite to the dish. The cheese was so gooey that it pulled into long strings that just wouldn’t end every time we tried to isolate a single bite of it. I highly recommend this mac & cheese.
Nino, one of the Dutch friends, ordered the prosciutto & tomato omelette for his entrée. It was made with charred tomatoes, caramelized onions, and smoked gouda, and came served with toast and hash browns. He approved of the dish.
Jaimy, the other Dutch friend, ordered the breakfast sandwich, which was a stack of cured pancetta, pork ragu, a fried egg, and American cheese on a potato bun. It was also served with hash browns. The sandwich looked scrumptious, and Jaimy confirmed that it tasted as good as it looked.
Nicole ordered the breakfast pizza. It was topped with mozzarella, Italian sausage, fire roasted peppers, and scrambled eggs. This is the only entrée that no one was a fan of. In fact, this is the worst breakfast pizza I’ve ever tried. There was something off-putting about the texture of the scrambled eggs on top of the pizza; I’m used to fried eggs on pizzas, where you can break the yolk over the pizza and mop up the runoff with the crust. In addition, the cheese had a gummy and processed taste to it.
Danielle, Nicole’s sister, ordered the lobster benedict. It came with huge chunks of juicy lobster on it, and plenty of hollandaise on the side. The hollandaise was buttery, tangy, and delicious.
Last, but not least, I ordered the Prime Boneless Short Rib Hash. It came served as more of a benedict than a hash, but it was tasty nonetheless. The tender and flavorful short rib was placed atop a bed of sautéed spinach and mushrooms on an English muffin, and then topped with a poached egg and bourbon sauce.