Boston Restaurant Blog -- December, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
It isn't often that a restaurant opens up in a section of Boston that basically has no dining spots. Such is the case with Barlow's, a new restaurant and pub we visited a few days ago that is located between the main section of the Fort Point neighborhood and the West Side (or Lower End) of South Boston. And sure, there are restaurants within a mile of Barlow's, but it sure doesn't feel that way, as the place is in what used to be a no-man's land of mills, warehouses, and factories that is now becoming increasingly popular with artists and young professionals.
Barlow's is located in a big old mill building that is actually dwarfed by some of the enormous factory buildings surrounding it. The brick front of the restaurant has a classic old-Boston look (not unlike Doyle's or Jacob Wirth) with an attractive stenciled sign on one of the front windows and warm lights emanating from the dining room at night. The interior of Barlow's is also quite appealing, with lots of exposed brick, beams that go from floor to ceiling, exposed pipes along both the walls and ceilings, old-fashioned hanging cylindrical lamps in the dining room, sconces along the walls by the bar, and a hardwood floor in the bar area. And speaking of the bar, it is huge, extending from the middle of the restaurant to the back, with plenty of seating on both sides. An outdoor patio along the left side of Barlow's (where the entrance is) promises to only add to the capacity of the restaurant, which, when all is said and done, could have room for more than 250 people.
Our meal at Barlow's was mostly good, but with one resounding dud (more on that later). Being a part of the Superior Dining Group, Barlow's upscale gastropub-style menu seemed instantly familiar to me, with a number of dishes one might find at the group's other restaurants (Devlin's and Porterbelly's in Brighton, the Warren Tavern in Charlestown, and Orleans in Somerville). After trying some of their tasty herbed bread to start, we ordered a butternut squash soup and a red pear cranberry salad. Both were wonderful, with the soup having pepitas floating on top, giving some added flavor and texture to it, while the salad came with a delightful mix of bacon, walnuts, arugula, blue cheese, and frisee (which is a type of chicory), all mixed with a sweet and spicy maple vinaigrette. As good as the starters were, the main dishes faltered to various degrees, unfortunately. The stuffed chicken breast had some great tastes coming from the walnut, sausage, and spinach stuffing, but the gnocchi was overly salty and a bit too tough and chewy. And then there was the fig and prosciutto pizza--this was the first dish I have tried in a long time that was literally inedible, with figs (possibly fig jam?) so overly sweet that they dominated the dish, detracting from the saltiness of the prosciutto and gorgonzola and the bitterness of the arugula. And the crust was crunchy and tasteless, with big parts of it being completely devoid of any toppings at all.
We told our server that we were unable to eat the pizza, and she was very apologetic about it. As she walked away with our plates, a person who was perhaps the general manager was going from table to table, asking folks how they liked their food and what they thought of the new spot in general. When he came to our table, we told him about the pizza and he said that he would definitely take it off the bill, mentioning that the kitchen was still going through some growing pains. He then chatted with us for a good 10 minutes about the opening of the restaurant, their plans with the downstairs area (which is currently not being used), the outdoor patio, and other related items. The fact that he was so nice to us (as was our server) and really seemed to care about what we thought of the food earned some big points from us, and should certainly be a lesson to those in the industry who don't bother to interact with customers.
So our meal at Barlow's was a mix of good and not-so-good, but the atmosphere was terrific and the people who worked there were great. And these last two points will probably help lure us back to this charming and unique restaurant on the edge of the Fort Point district, though we may indeed wait a little bit as it does seem that they still need to work a few kinks out.
For those who are looking for the address of Barlow's, here it is: Barlow's, 241 A Street, South Boston, MA 02210; the phone number is (617) 338-2072.
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