NOTE: The following is part of a series in which I provide analysis of one of the eateries featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” (see clip at the end of this entry).
Location: 551o Virginia Ave., St. Louis, Mo.
Date visited: March 10, 2010
Known for its: oak roasted meats, barley paella, schnitzel and spaetzle, zarzuela
Official website: www.ironbarley.com
One day after visiting Sweetie Pie’s, we were back at it in my hometown by stopping by a place called Iron Barley in south St. Louis (near the famed Anheuser-Busch brewery) that my father and stepmother had tried on two separate occasions to visit. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. They have been to pretty much every unique eatery in the area, so Kirstin and I were glad to join them on the Wednesday night of our Spring Break venture.
They have since become regulars at the restaurant, and it’s not hard to see why.
On first glance, you walk next to the black awning and live music signs of the building’s façade and automatically think you’re going to be walking into a biker bar. One look at the array of items hanging behind the establishment’s bar does nothing but strengthen those convictions (see photo below). Calling it a biker bar is an insult to the ambiance and certainly the food.
The bar at the Iron Barley.
Yes, the guy who runs his place looks as if he could be an extra on “Mad Max,” but he knows what he’s doing. Furthermore, he knows how to make barley, something that folks—especially within walking distance of the country’s largest brewery—associate with beer. Along with an oak roasted pork chop, my father—can I just call him my dad?—had a concoction called toasted barley and grilled vegetables, which had an earthiness to it, but also a distinct flavor.
Being 75 percent German by origin, I decided to honor my roots by ordering the schnitzel and spaetzle one of the items talked about on the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” show. The schnitzel was a like a thin pork fritter. It was delicious. I was able to finish it rather quickly to help Kirstin with her oak roasted special cut prime rib. I think I would be able to eat a slab of tire if it, too, was oak roasted in the same style.
We finished our meal off with a dessert called a “peanut butter blaster” that featured an ice cream-based cake topped with a strawberry habanero sauce that I didn’t particular care for, but everybody else loved. You have to keep in mind that if some people are blessed with “iron stomachs,” mine is of the paper towel variety.
It should be noted that while we were dining, there was a guy playing a folksy slide guitar. It was hard to tell what genre of music he was playing, but it sounded good. The same can be said for the Iron Barley: It defies description, but gets a heavy recommendation when you’re in St. Louis.