A well spent $5.44

On Superbowl Sunday, I wanted to go out to brunch, and made a reservation on Opentable for a place we’d never been in Martinez, named Barrel Aged.

As we were getting ready to go, the restaurant called and said they would have to cancel because they had a mechanical problem in the kitchen.  They very kindly offered me a $50 gift certificate to make up for the trouble.

Tonight, Gail and I went to try it out, and were very pleased with the excursion.

Main Street in Martinez is turning into a very gentrified mini-Paris, with every restaurant having a dining area on the street.  It was a mite chilly for that this evening, but it bodes well for the summer.

Barrel Aged turns out to be an old fashioned bar/restaurant.  There is the al fresco dining on the street plus a few booths just outside the front door, then you enter and see the bar on the right and a half dozen old-style semicircular leather booths down the left side of the room.  The center of the room contains 8 or ten tables, all tall with high chairs. No tablecloths, very cheap flatware rolled and taped into a paper napkin.  It’s sort of a blue collar redneck Paris, I guess.

The hostess started by looking in her book for our reservation–there is no computer terminal up front to see online reservations.  Then she went back to the computer near the kitchen. Finding our reservation, she promptly seated us at a high table right up front, next to the entertainment.

Doug Wendt playing classical guitar.

Doug Wendt playing classical guitar.

I really, really liked the guitar player.  You see a guy playing in a bar, and you don’t think he’ll be playing J.S. Bach.  This guy does.

The menu is eclectic, to say the least. A great selection of appetizers, ranging from fried pickles to bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed dates.  Warm Kale and Bacon.  Battered green beans. Deviled eggs.  I was amazed.

The entrees are strange–vegetarian choices, lots of beef, some prawns, NO fish.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a menu without fish–even in Gatlinburg I can get trout or salmon.

We started by splitting the warm goat cheese salad.  Splitting is a good idea; the $13 salad is huge, an enormous bowl of greens with two hockey pucks of goat cheese that are breaded and baked until warm and gooey.

Since I couldn’t have fish, I chose the brined pork chops.

Apple cider brined pork chops.

Apple cider brined pork chops.

Two good sized boneless chops, a bit of applesauce, some ordinary mashed potatoes and a portion of excellent brussels sprouts.  Your basic meat and spuds dinner.

Gail chose meatloaf, which I never understand.  To me, meatloaf is what you have when you run out of money before you run out of month; it isn’t something I ever choose.  On the other hand, if you must pick this big square bunless hamburger, Barrel Aged offers a good one.

The same taters and sprouts.

The same taters and sprouts.

Yup, the chef has no creativity–both dinners had the same side dishes.  This place isn’t the French Laundry, and doesn’t pretend to be.  The meatloaf was moist and juicy and considerably spicier than one might expect.

Even though it was my birthday, I didn’t have dessert.  Given a choice of fried Oreos or fried Twinkies, I had neither.

Service was more than excellent.  Both the waitress and the hostess checked regularly to see if we had everything, and even went out of their way to ensure that Gail had lime wedges not slices for her club soda. (you can’t really squeeze much out of a slice)

Allowing for the $50 gift certificate, the bill came to $5.44.  They use some system with an iPad to process the credit cards, and it offers you choices of percentages for your tip.  I left 20%, which was $1.08.  Seemed right for such good service.  (Okay, I left another $20 because they were really great, but that isn’t funny.)

The bottom line on Barrel Aged is that it has good solid food, great service, no fish and a tremendous guitar player.  Gail wants to go back to try the veggieburger, I want to hear the musician again.  It will be nice to eat outside in warmer weather.  Dinner won’t always be $5.44, but it will still be worth the price.
Barrel Aged Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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