Friday, May 26, 2017

Food on Friday – Craft & Barrel

It seems that there is a new restaurant opening in the Upstate every week, and while we enjoy trying out the trendy spots (which often become favorites), we also have our go-to restaurants. There are the ones that we visit when celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries, but we have a handful that are on regular rotation for occasions such as the fridge is empty, it’s too hot in the kitchen or mommy needs a break. These are the family-friendly places that have dishes suitable for the kids (but still have an interesting menu for the adults), have a fun atmosphere, include stress-free parking and reasonably priced meal options.


Don’t judge a book by its cover; just as a restaurant on Main St. isn’t guaranteed to be good just because it’s squeezed in among all the current bestsellers, being located in a strip mall shouldn’t disqualify a new author from consideration. I’ve recently become familiar with yet another dining option in Greenville that offers local craft beer and fresh, Southern-inspired menu offerings paired with a convenient location and plenty of parking – making it a sure bet for a weeknight.

Craft & Barrel gastropub specializes in local craft beer, hand-crafted bourbon & whiskey cocktails, and a fresh, Southern menu. The owners Ritch Matthews & Lauren Cramer have been in the food industry for more than 17 years and opened Craft & Barrel in the fall of 2016 where the old Cheers used to be. Be warned – this is a gastropub – meaning it’s more of a bar (but with great food!) than a restaurant, and although it’s a place I’ll take the boys, I will make sure it’s not a night when a live band is playing or karaoke night. We’ll bypass the bar and sit in the back room near the stage, or in the enclosed outdoor patio, and we might go a bit earlier to avoid the evening rush (Wednesdays are usually perfect!).

fried green tomatoes

The full menu features a wide range of options, with the entirety (other than a couple of exceptions) made on site, from scratch. With this in mind, here are a few of my favorites:
From the small plates – fried green tomatoes & housemade cheese sticks. The tomatoes are every bit as good as the ones made in Juliet, GA where the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed, the remoulade probably better. The cheese sticks with fresh marinara sauce are light without being greasy.
From the snacks – bacon jalapeno deviled eggs. A spicy twist on a southern fave, the locally-sourced cheddar and bacon kicking it up a notch.

macaroni & cheese large plate

From the flatbreads – the pesto and heirloom tomato is a best-seller, and for good reason.
From the large plates – the buttermilk fried chicken, the fish and chips. My favorite menu item is the macaroni and cheese: jumbo shells blended with white cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, diced tomatoes and scallions, plus I add the grilled shrimp. Note, if you order mac&cheese as a side, you'll be getting the classic macaroni and cheese...
Sides – you can’t go wrong with the sweet potato chips, and a good test of a chef is his fried okra; ours was perfect.
Dessert – (Order it! Selections do change daily…)

pesto and heirloom tomato flatbread

The specialty drinks I’ve tasted have been excellent, interesting ingredient pairings with good presentation. The blackberry julep is a favorite: Bulleit bourbon, fresh blackberries, fresh mint & sugar. The St. Basil left me perplexed; what was supposed to be Basil Hayden’s bourbon, muddled basil, grapefruit bitters & St. Germain instead contained cilantro, however the combination was delicious and so I didn’t even attempt to clear up the misunderstanding.

Buttermilk fried chicken with sweet potato chips & fried okra

In addition to the live music that takes the stage most Friday and Saturday nights, there are plenty of TVs, a room for darts (that can have some serious competition certain nights), a weeknight happy hour and karaoke. Our service has always included good recommendations and a friendly stop-by from the owner, and the timing of food coming out is flawless. It doesn’t have to be downtown for it to be a Greenville favorite – Craft & Barrel is the perfect example.


Click here for Craft & Barrel's website.
They are also here on facebook, and are @craftbarrel on instagram.

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