Walter Mencken 7 p.m., Dec. 10
David summed up the flavors of this new gastropub in East Village best: Simple yet satisfying. The Knotty Barrel just opened a month ago, but it looks and feels like a longstanding neighborhood pub. I happened by it today on my way to the Kabob Shop, which is located right next door, on 9th at Market. Always eager to try something new, I skipped my falafel doner and sidestepped into the corner entrance of the pub.
I didn't have it in me to try the deep-fried Twinkie (that's the naughty of the knotty), but I promised to come back and get drunk enough so that I don't care how horrible it looks on paper. I spoke with Kenny, the owner (whose wife came up with the name, and the idea to post fun, post-prohibition quotations throughout, including my favorite, by Julia Child: "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook"). He said it took a long time, and many cream explosions, for the chefs (Ted White and Eric O'Connor) to nail the best batter for the guilty pleasure.
I liked the beer taster menu -- reminiscent of selecting sushi, pencils are provided, and you choose 4 brews for $7. Check out what we tried:
Here's the beer line-up -- lots of local microbreweries represented, but you can still get most of your old faves.
We started with this, shrimp & white beans over grilled baguette.
This is what I ordered, the curry shrimp po-boy. The cornmeal fried shrimp was light, rubbed in Jamaican curry, which was mild, not spicy at all, heirloom tomatoes (yes, I could taste the difference), and shredded Napa cabbage, which is mixed in a veggie relish with a yogurt base. Tasty, harmonious, and easy. The house cut chips (some of the best I've had, the thickness and crunch is consistent, and they weren't over salted or greasy) added texture and salt to what is otherwise a fairly tame, yet satisfying (David had it right) sandwich, or as they're called here, "sarnies."
David got the grilled cheese, which is more like a sandwich that has cheese in it: between the slices is English cheddar, tellagio cheese, prosciutto, and heirloom tomatoes (David said they were extra juicy), and the bread was brioche.
I'll have to go back to try the mac & cheese, which apparently induces high-fives from some patrons. The mac & cheese is different than others, particularly in the choice of marscapone. It contains English cheddar, marscapone, English peas & vines, and panko crust.
I liked the portions -- these were normal sandwich sizes, not the giant, need-to-grab-a-box monstrosities served in some places (though if you're stocking up for the week, there's something to be said for those). If I find myself in the area (as I'm likely to do, as David's studio is just a few blocks away), I could easily see going into this joint, having a tasting flight of beer (or, even more likely, as wine doesn't seem to be their thing -- they list by varietal and region, but no vineyards mentioned -- I'll try a "specialty drink"), and some naughty comfort food, while appreciating the decor of knotty wood.
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