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Our last dining out in 2016 turned out to be quite fun AND satisfying. I've already been experimenting with beer over the past year but this time I could be my own bartender.
We were invited to Barrel Republic in Carlsbad, the newest of three freedom-to-pour locations. This business originally started in Pacific Beach, then expanded into Oceanside followed by Carlsbad.
After providing an employee at the ordering station with your ID and credit card, you'll receive an electronic wristband which will be used to activate whichever tap you desire! You choose when, where and how much to pour!
There are over 60 taps here, which include craft beer, wine and some non-alcoholic options like kombucha! Tap your wristband on the Barrel Republic logo of the selected beer tap. The green light means you are good to pour! After you finish, the screen will display your beer stats, such as current pour size and how much more you can keep going! I also like how there are different size glasses to choose in case you want more or less! We didn't drink too much that day but enjoyed having little sips of everything during our visit. This definitely seems like a fun place to go with a group!
The restaurant is very roomy and very "wood" decorated! Here's part of the seating inside the main dining area.
There's additional seating in the back patio, which is where we sat. I bet that firepit table is popular in the winter!
Chef Michael Brown, who runs the kitchens for both this location and Oceanside, greeted us and gave us a quick rundown of menu options including favorites. Even then, the food decision making was difficult because everything sounded delicious. We finally made our way to one of three ordering stands to place our food order. It is also the same place where you'd pick up a wristband.
I like how beer taps are used instead of the typical numbers! There aren't waiters/waitresses serving in sections like at most places but the staff WILL find you and bring out your food! They also seem to be good about cleaning up your glasses when you finish one of your pours.
Garlic Butter Pretzel Bites
Chef brought out a sample of the pretzel bread, a perfect little appetizer with the buttery garlic goodness we needed to start off our meal! A full order would be plentiful to share with a group.
Bacon Wrapped Pork. Pork belly with bacon around it with an aioli sauce.
I was excited about the Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly because I loved the sample from Foodie Fest Encinitas! The crisped outer bacon housed soft pork belly that just melted in our mouths. The seasoning was simple and slightly sweet. This reminded Dennis of bacon lollipops from Draft Republic but bite size and better! I recommend NOT sharing this app!
Mini Crabcake Bites
Chef recommended these since they were one of the 'legit' menu items from his roots back in Maryland. These were bite size pieces with a nice consistancy.
Artisan Meats and California Cheese Platter.
Plenty of options to tickle your fancy! Small bites yet with powerful tastes in each. There were strong cheeses against gentler meats. The far right meat was our favorite and tasted similar to prosciutto. Dennis is the pickled lover but even I enjoyed the neon yellow 'in-between' cucumbers, lightly pickled but not too sour! The roasted nuts had a dry spice rub to them. This is one of the best priced boards you'll find at only ~15!
Barrel Burger with a side of Kennebec Fries
Right away Dennis noticed how precisely stacked the burger was. Everything was compact and nothing slid around between the inner toasted bun and red onions acting as a barrier. Patty was well seasoned and medium rare without being greasy. We noticed the cheddar was cooked to a fried crisp which was due to the griddle it was cooked on! We chose the kennebec fries as the side but they seemed to need a little more salt to it.
Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich with a side of Crab Soup
The turkey sandwich just might be my favorite thing. Delightful crusty bread similar to a grilled cheese plus a mustard that isn't overwhelming (especially for my tastes). Dennis liked the contrast of wetter ingredients (meat, mustard, tomato) against the outer shell. For the side, you can substitute crab soup instead of fries with no extra charge! I'd recommend taking advantage of that! The soup was tasty and comforting with actual crabby bits inside.
(Lynn's 'fun' shots)
Chef Michael Brown, who runs the kitchens for both this location and Oceanside, joined our table for a bit. This gave us the opportunity to pick his brain about his experiences and ideas. He had been in the business for 35 years, spanning 14 restaurant and 10 cusines over his career as well as traveling across the USA 8 times! He's got the experience to keep this kitchen running well! There was definitely a lot of thought put into the menu, giving consideration through menu options without sacrificing another audience. About half the menu either is or can be made into a vegetarian option. There are even a few vegan options, which is amazing since the menu is only one page!
By the end of our visit, the place was filling up fast! It's already quite popular in this area and now we know why! The restaurant is close to the coaster plus there are numberous Uber/Lift customers who want to enjoy the taps without worrying about DUIs! A bonus is that the FOOD is also excellent! I wish there were one closer to home!
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine here and our meal was complimentary. We were not otherwise compensated and all opinions stated are our own.
Barrel Republic (Carlsbad)
2961 State St
Carlsbad CA 92008