Little Barrel and Brown, the newest concept from Andrew and Matt Botticelli with partner Tim Brown – has quickly topped my list of favorite neighborhood hangouts. Amidst cheery buzz, the warm space is a welcome anecdote to the dreary, cold Hill Country winter. Solid food, excellent cocktails and laughter round out the experience. It’s every ounce the neighborhood comfort spot that the gregarious Chicagoans envisioned.
Gracious and good-spirited, the guys converse with colloquial ease making you instantly comfortable. It is genuine front of house hospitality procured from a unique combination of an Italian-meets-Texas-charm-via-Mid-West-kindness upbringing and the energy is translated into, and personified by, the buzzing ambiance. Outfitted with soft lights illuminating rich dark wood, the relaxed space – opened in late 2013 – boasts a welcoming, jovial ora.
As if the stellar surroundings aren’t enough, the menu is wholly solid. Everyone can find a favorite (or three), a reason to come back habitually. Libations range from a robust wine and local craft beer selection to craft cocktails – including one heck of an Old Fashioned. The food is approachable, elevating classics sans pretense. Fried chicken is juicy and succulent. Baby back ribs are tender. Anchovy lovers will swoon for the Caesar kale salad. The Lockhart Grilled Quail is executed perfectly.
Chef Russell Dougherty, who “always wanted to put a Sloppy Joe” on his menu, nails a creative interpretation incorporating duck confit sliders perfectly balanced with pickled onion and spicy arugula. Dougherty, crowned head chef upon winning a cooking competition staged by the Botticellis and Brown, has fun studding his menu with his culinary flair. Offering dishes both recognizable and appealing, his creativity permeates the menu with small conceptual twists such as “marrownaise.” Even this mayonnaise-averse foodie can get on board with bone marrow-infused mayonnaise.
A great place for a quick nibble and drink, Little Barrel and Brown also boasts an excellent brunch complete with their delectable fried chicken transformed into a chicken and waffles offering featuring savory chorizo maple syrup. Other highlights include duck pastrami hash, shrimp and grits and steak and eggs. Of note, the LB&B Benedict delivers a tasty interpretation of classic benedict with the addition of beer braised kale and arepa. Happy Hour is yet another winner with select menu items ranging from $3 to $6 and libation specials.
A space designed to give the local community an easy, welcoming and satiating watering hole, Little Barrel and Brown hits the mark. Cheers, neighbors!
Photos: Courtney Pierce