Barley’s Bar is located on Broadway in Council Bluffs. It is an obvious ‘hot spot’ for after hours patrons. The bar/grill has a long wooden bar which spans the entire length of the business. You can ‘belly-up to the bar’ or choose one of the numerous tables and high-tops along the other wall. There is a larger area in the back, which would work great for larger parties or those desiring more privacy and quiet conversation. There is a wall of flat screen televisions hanging over the bar, with every game/sports event imaginable playing.
We visited on a wintery Tuesday evening and Barley’s is anything but quiet. Large groups of professionals were enjoying drinks and dinner after work and during the Christmas break. Small groups of persons were meeting for dinner. We grabbed a table and ordered drinks. They have a full bar with many selections of beers. Rick chose an Ayinger Celebrator Bock ($5) and Patty settled on a Blue Moon ($3). Sarah tried the Salmon Creek house wines ($5.50/glass) - first the Chardonnay then the Pinot Grigio. Neither was outstanding and in hind sight, I would recommend stepping up to a known label or having a beer or just water. Nothing awful, just nothing spectacular. Jim stuck with his trusty Diet Coke.
Barley’s has an extensive menu from which to choose. They have nightly specials, appetizers, pizza, salads, burgers and many types of sandwiches. Their Barley Burger ($9) is 7 ounces of ground beef with bacon, red onion marmalade, lettuce, tomato, pickles and choice of cheese. All burgers are served with standard French Fries or you can upgrade to a salad, haystack onion rings, cottage cheese, soup or sweet potato fries.
Patty ordered the Arnold sandwich ($8.50) which was a “really good” combination of turkey, Provolone Cheese, guacamole, tomato and Ranch on a ciabatta roll. Patty had upgraded her side to the sweet potato fries and was happy with them. Patty reported that her sandwich was ‘goopy’ in the best way possible. The ciabatta roll added extra support for the gooey mass. Being lukewarm did not hinder this sandwich at all.
Sarah ordered the Reuben ($8.50) and standard French Fries. The Reuben did not do well under the heat lamp. The top was warm and toasty but the bottom had gotten cold and soggy. Not an outstanding way to evaluate the honest goodness of the sandwich. The fries quickly cooled off and half the meal was taken home to try to revive it on a griddle for tomorrow’s lunch.
Jim chose to go with the 8 ounce sirloin steak ($12). It came with a ‘pretty plain’ lettuce salad with ‘pretty good’ homemade 1000 Island dressing. One of Jim’s pet peeves is chunks of lettuce which are too big and difficult to eat. Barley’s needs a lesson in lettuce tearing/chopping as Jim struggled to take a mouthful of salad without looking like a horse chomping on hay (actually, he used his knife to cut the lettuce into dainty bite-sized pieces). Along with the house salad, Jim feasted on the sirloin which was cooked to order and tender, easy to eat, with a nice beefy flavor. The homemade mashed potatoes were a nice side dish and the gravy was ‘just ok’. This meal was served with a side of green beans which had a unique flavoring which none of us could distinguish and we all agreed was not that tasty. This is a ‘secret recipe’ that Barley’s should lose and try another flavor enhancer.
Rick dined on the Buffalo Bill chicken sandwich ($8.5) which was good and spicy hot. He thought it was tasty and would order that again. The French Fries were pretty standard and hot.
The drink service was fast but the meal service was slow. At one point after waiting a sufficient amount of time for our meals, a waiter went by carrying four plates. He dropped two off at a table down the row. He dropped the other two off at the end of the bar, where they sat for several minutes. From our vantage point, the Ruben and Arnold sat cooling off. After several minutes, the waiter took our sandwiches back to the kitchen where (our guess) is that they were put under a heat lamp until the other 2 meals were recooked. Hummmm. These same plates arrived at our table with the guy’s plates five minutes later. The fries were lukewarm to the taste/touch.
SUMMARY: Overall, Barley’s has a fun atmosphere and one bad experience with delayed delivery of our hot meals would probably not deter us from coming back again. We wished our server had been upfront with the timing error and given us the choice to have our meals delivered at different times.
If you are in downtown Council Bluffs, this would definitely be worth a stop for lunch or a simple dinner.