When Rob and I got home from our trip on a Saturday night at 7:30pm, we crashed hard. Turns out that those 25 hours of straight travel time can completely wipe you out. The next morning we were up around 5am and starving (wasn't it dinner time?), so we did our best to wait until appropriate U.S. E.S.T. breakfast time when we headed out to become the morning's first patrons at Brooklyn Label. On our way over we noticed a new place had popped up in our absence -- the River Barrel Cafe on the corner of Kent Street and Franklin. The menu was very similar to Brooklyn Label and the woody interior looked a little like the Habitat. On Friday evening, we decided to give it the full up-and-down.
I was charmed right away. The owner was the one to come over and greet us. She told us to sit wherever we liked as she thanked us multiple times for coming and asked us to tell her our thoughts on how to make the place better. It definitely added to the neighborhood charm -- as did the huge yet modest chandelier above the bar and the cozy brick walls.
I think they were a little understaffed that night -- the bartender was the one that ran around and tried to handle the Friday night crowd. She did a pretty good job, but I noticed she had to ask the question "Is this your food?" a lot.
We did have to wait awhile for our meal, but here's everything we tried:
- Duck Spring Rolls -- They were really more like veggie rolls than duck rolls, but they were still pretty good. They were even better when we asked about the chili dip -- they had originally forgotten it.
- Truffled Mac 'n' Cheese -- This side dish was so good!! Everyone loves a good batch of mac 'n' cheese, and no one's gonna complain if they're truffled.
- Pork Porterhouse -- This entree was alright. I was told it was brined overnight, and I am a huge fan of overnight brining, but it was a bit overcooked. It also lacked an excitement factor. On the other hand, I'd never had a piece of pork look so much like a steak, so points for that.
- Sweet Potato -- The pork came with two sides, and this was one of them. I loove sweet potato and find it hard to mess up, but it's also just as hard to find a mashed SP without too much cinnamon and marshmallows and other types of sugar love. Great consistency and not too sweet!
- 7 Vegetables -- This was the other pork side. I only remember four veggies -- carrots, squash, another type of squash, onion -- but I'm sure the other three were in there. Well-seasoned and cooked gently so as to retain their firmness. I can proudly say I ate all my veggies that night.
At this point I had to stop taking pictures because the owner had spotted me snapping pics of my food and was cracking up. Not just a little giggling but a full belly laugh. So I'm out of pictures for now.
Well, the service certainly wasn't stellar and the food didn't blow me away but hey, I like this place. The owner and I formed a bond when she laughed at me and now I want her to succeed. I'm not sure I'll come back for dinner anytime soon but I can see myself in there after a long day at work, downing some beers and digging into some truffled mac 'n' cheeses.