The Barrel, a wine and whiskey restaurant, pairs an exquisite menu with a dash of whimsy for an inspired night out in North Texas.
The Bartonville hot spot opened last summer serving guests dishes such as salmon wontons, Chilean sea bass and steak with ancho butter – a culinary surprise in what was once a sleepy small town. It's quickly turned into a destination watering hole and culinary find for local residents.
The bar and restaurant evolved from owner Brandon Bohannan’s love of entertaining and keen business sense.
“I love being around people,” Bohannan said. “The main driver was to entertain and host. The original concept was a high-end wine and whiskey bar, but then we decided we needed food … and it had to be the best food.
“One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, we’re serving oysters and truffles.”
To create an upscale experience with exceptional hospitality, Bohannan put together a rock-star management team with general manager Caitlyn Johnson and bartender Blake Smith, who complement each other's vast talents.
“From my perspective, they’re the perfect yin and yang,” Bohannan said. “Blake is outgoing and buoyant, and Caitlyn is all business. We’re lucky to have them both.”
Bohannan’s wife, Morgan, is the assistant general manager, and Chef Jorge Romero took over the kitchen in February, bringing time-tested skills and creativity. For more than eight years, he was the executive chef at Michaels Cuisine in Fort Worth, and prior to that he worked abroad in India and Dubai.
Every dish at The Barrel is made from scratch using only the freshest ingredients.
“The main thing is the way we source our products,” Bohannan said. “We buy the highest quality you can buy. Our fish is never frozen; it’s always flown in within two or three days of being caught, and we serve HeartBrand’s Certified Akaushi Beef exclusively.”
The new American menu is influenced by various cultures, and it changes with the season and availability of ingredients. The spontaneity and constant cultivation not only maintain the restaurant’s relevance but also feeds the creativity of The Barrel team.
The cocktail menu is also created seasonally by Smith, who spends hours perfecting every detail until it’s dialed into his satisfaction.
“We have the best drinks around,” the award-winning bartender said. “It’s not an ego thing. They are objectively delicious drinks.”
Smith said when he’s formulating a new menu, he’ll stay at the bar until the wee hours of the morning, mixing drinks and fine-tuning the recipes.
“I’ll make one, taste it, dump it out, and start again,” he said. “But if you taste it and your eyes go wide, then you write it down.”
In addition to top-notch ingredients and beautiful garnishes, Smith gives each cocktail a kicky name, like Tinkle on the Blower or All Talk & No Trousers.
“Tinkle on the Blower is an English idiom that means ‘Give me a call on the phone,’ but it’s so fun,” he said. “I found that the more risqué the name is, the more popular the drink.”
Classic cocktails, mocktails and a wide selection of wine and whiskey round out the drink menu.
Bohannan and Smith recently created Cork Club to provide patrons with an additional experience and give them access to the restaurant’s buying power. For a monthly membership fee, wine enthusiasts can buy fine wines at deep discounts, have exclusive access to wine tastings and pairing dinners and have specific wines sourced by The Barrel team.
“You can order one bottle from me, and the savings will pay for your whole month’s membership,” Smith said.
Bohannan and his team are constantly creating ways to enhance the experience and welcome everyone, from the most adventuresome foodies to the more traditional diners. The menu, décor, and even the playlist are always evolving, perfectly crafted to create an upscale, energetic vibe.
“We want it to be nice for the neighborhood but approachable both from a price point and presence,” Smith said.
The Barrel opens daily for happy hour at 2 p.m. with half-price drinks, followed by dinner service. Reservations are recommended and can be made online at thebarrelbars.com.
“It takes at least a year to put your foot down and say with certainty ‘we’re here, and this is what we do,’” Smith said. “So, I’m really excited as we approach that year mark because I think it’s only going to get more special as time goes on.”
The Barrel is at 2648 Farm to Market Road 407 East in Bartonville.
“We have the best drinks around. It’s not an ego thing. They are objectively delicious drinks.”
Blake Smith, bartender at The Barrel