Barrel and Crow, Bethesda

Fried chicken & waffles

The fried chicken was the dish of the night. Truly great. Try this dish.

After a long afternoon at Walter Reed, visiting a friend of Matt’s, I took some time off and went to dinner – Barrel and Crow was only a five-minute drive, and I nabbed a parking space almost right in front of the restaurant.

I pulled up a bar stool right in front of the Orioles game, and watched Manny Machado spear an impossible screaming short-hop grounder before seemingly *taking time to adjust his sunglasses* before throwing the runner out – this, while sipping on a Left Hand Brewing Co. Sawtooth Ale ($7), an amber, 5.3% ABV session-like beer with malt and hops in *balance* (bartenders: Do you notice a pattern here?) Sometimes I wonder if Machado has such a gun for an arm that he’s going to make an arrogant mistake one day in an important situation – regardless, I’ve never seen anything quite like him at third base. Between Machado and Andrelton Simmons, we’re witnessing two of the greatest infielders of all-time.

For an appetizer, a bowl of Gazpacho ($8) with Chesapeake crab and corn salad as a garnish at the bottom. This was a dark, oily, spicy Gazpacho that relied on what might have been Old Bay seasoning for its zip, the little beads of oil, perhaps olive oil, making the rounds at the top of the bowl. This was a technically interesting Gazpacho that worked better for me on paper, as I thought it was a bit spicy for its own good, but there’s no question the quality was there.

After having Nick’s chicken at Old Angler’s Inn, and after hearing the raves about it here, I had to get the Fried Amish Chicken and Waffles ($18) with compressed watermelon and cherry-tomato salad, two quarters of a Belgian waffle topped with peach compote (not the strawberry-rhubarb compote you see above), and also a little tin of Pennsylvania maple syrup. I love this chicken, and a dirty-little secret about it is that it’s actually cooked sous-vide before being fried (how else can it come out so fast?). Sous-vide is a technique that I find largely abused in the industry, but it is a perfectly legitimate cooking technique when done properly and with restraint, and Nick knows how to do it with chicken. There’s almost no way to tell, even when you get into the depths of the breast meat. A few hints about how to best enjoy this dish: the salad is best when separated: chase a bite of salty chicken with a bite of compressed watermelon (I’m not a big fan of compressed watermelon in general, but it works here). And dunk the cherry tomatoes in the peach compote resting in the pockets of the waffles (think about it: tomatoes and peaches go very well together, and this is not a sweet peach compote, so they complement each other nicely). Dab the waffles in the syrup to taste. A wonderful presentation of a half-chicken that screams summer on a plate – I really liked it a lot, sous-vide chicken and all.

I also ordered four items to go from the Bar Menu: two orders of Buffalo Wings ($9 each) with Chef’s spicy Buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and celery; Onion Rings ($7) – pickled and tempura-fried onion rings with bacon & buttermilk sauce; and Maryland Crab Beignets ($9) with Old Bay tartar sauce. I’d love to tell you how they were, but I only got a brief glimpse of the chicken wings, and literally didn’t even see either the onion rings or the crab beignets, as they were being devoured in the back seat by two hungry teenagers – all four things were gone in the time we drove from Bethesda to Fairfax. I heard some oohhs and aahhs and some snorting and some raves about the crab beignets in particular, but they didn’t even save me a single bite. All I know is that Matt said all four things were good, and that both teens (who both have good palates) really liked the crab beignets.

Barrel and Crow was initialized in Italic purely as an educated guess; now, I can safely say it merits that ranking in the Bethesda Dining Guide. Of special note: The beer selection is fantastic.

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