If you’re a brewpub wanting to emphasize your culinary prowess — forget about mere bar snacks and give great beer some equally great food love.
That’s a rough translation of Barley’s Tap + Kitchen philosophy as the 21-year-old brewpub — originally christened Barley’s Brewhaus — continues its beer-meets-cuisine evolution.
A pioneer of Kansas City’s craft beer scene, Barley’s wooed patrons early on with all sorts of sudsy fun: beer tastings, beer events, beer schools. And to augment the beer experience, Barley’s kitchen whipped up traditional appetizers still available and popular on the current menu: a mean spinach and artichoke dip ($9) and darned good chicken wings ($10), along with other accompaniments suited for quaffing handcrafted beer.
Over the decades Barley’s, part of the KC Hopps, Ltd. group that also owns Blue Moose, O’Dowd’s and Stroud’s, has paid close attention to the menu, tweaking and updating it with trendy categories such as micro and small plates and polishing its chef-driven, from-scratch approach.
KC Hopps Corporate Executive Chef Ryan Sneed has been with the organization for eight years, elevating Barley’s food to match the discernment given to choosing the staggering 99 beers on tap aimed to quench beer aficionados’ palates.
“One reason we have staying power is that we listen to guest feedback and observe what’s going on in the food world,” Sneed said. “Although our model works and it would be easy to hit repeat, we don’t do that. Our menu is intended to take people on a journey by serving old favorites and weaving in new dishes, enhancing their beer experience.”
One recent Friday night, I wandered into Barley’s Shawnee location at 435 and Midland Drive (the original location is at 119th and Quivira in Overland Park). Opting not to wait out the 45 minutes for a table—the two-story restaurant was packed with after-work revelers, girlfriends out on the town, families and even a youth softball team or two — my partner and I instead grabbed seats at the spacious, long bar and were greeted by Sam, a bartender and certified cicerone, who asked what we would be drinking and eating.
As we studied the extensive, moderately priced menu that ranges from appetizers to soups and salads and burgers and steaks to deep-dish pizza and much, much more, Sam and his colleague, Marco, took us on a culinary tour.
“The seven-hour roasted pork napoleon small plate ($9) combines our barbecue pork with house-made jalapeno cornbread,” Sam offered. “I eat the pork when I’m having a bad day — it turns everything around. And if you like blue cheese, the bleu cheese pub chips ($7) are a good choice.”
Marco assisted my partner with beer pairings (Barley’s has Kansas City’s largest selection of popular, seasonal and craft beers on tap) as we settled on Sam’s recommendations and debated on the rest of dinner, noting many menu items incorporated with beer (Boulevard-beer-battered fish and chips, $13; smoked sharp cheddar ale soup, $5, bowl, $3 cup; giant Bavarian pretzel with microbrew cheese fondue, $8).
Impressed that Barley’s knowledgeable bartenders are just as schooled on the menu as a server, we decided to be swayed by Sam and Marco’s picks: Locally crafted sausages ($12) paired with braised cabbage, brioche toast and local honey laced with farmhouse-style saison beer; the 3 Little Pigs flatbread topped with slow-roasted pork, hickory smoked bacon and smoked ham, drizzled with house barbecue sauce ($11, gluten-free crust available for $3 more); and Barley’s Bruschetta ($10.50), a distinctive trio of dense, hearth-baked breads topped with Serrano ham, heirloom tomatoes and two-olive tapenade.
For dessert, Marco suggested the black-and-tan cheesecake swirled with a stout sauce ($6), pairing it with chocolate stout and the brand-new strawberry bruschetta, eight pieces of crispy bread topped with Nutella, vanilla mascarpone mousse, stout sauce and sliced strawberries ($6). The certified cicerone matched a saison beer with the decadent dessert, much to my partner’s delight.
Satiated and making our way through the crowd, sack bulging with leftover boxes in hand, it’s unanimous: What’s not to love about the reimagined Barley’s Kitchen + Tap?
Barley’s Kitchen + Tap
Location: 11924 W. 119th St., Overland Park; 16649 Midland Drive, Shawnee
Phone: 913-663-4099 Overland Park; 913-268-5160 Shawnee
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight, Sunday. Lunch: weekdays until 4 p.m. Weekend brunch until 2 p.m.
Beer on tap: Nearly all Barley’s bartenders and servers are certified cicerones and can help the novice or advanced beer drinkers navigate the 99 choices — and effortlessly pair beer with food.
New Kids on the Block: Seared Tuna Tataki Salad ($14); Seafood Orzo Pasta ($16);
Brick Chicken Sandwich ($12)
Brunch: Offered Saturday and Sunday, choose from a wide array of eggs and omelets ($9 - $12); French toast ($8); wood-grilled steak-and-eggs ($15); thick-cut bacon and grits ($9.50) and much more.
Late Night Menu: 10 p.m. - midnight, Sunday through Thursday; 11 p.m. - 1:30 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Small menu of Barley’s signature appetizers, flatbreads and desserts.