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The Food Guy: Breaking Barge news and a good review

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Customers have been enjoying the outside patio area of The Barge since it reopened in April. Tonight the popular eatery is expected to open its upstairs finer-dining attraction, Bistro at the Barge.

BREAKING FOOD NEWS!

The Barge is scheduled to open its upstairs finer-dining restaurant tonight, offering a far different menu and atmosphere than you’ll find on the floating bar-and-grill patio out on the dock.

Featuring more elegant and quieter surroundings — and live fish tanks as part of the décor, I hear — the new Bistro at the Barge offers an impressive selection of upscale appetizers, salads, steaks, seafood and sides.

Although I haven’t had a taste yet, the menu looks pretty promising.

Appetizers include a variety of fresh oysters, along with lobster risotto, seared tuna, surf-and-turf skewers, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, duck confit eggrolls with orange bulgogi dipping sauce, and crispy sweet-and-sour pork belly over potato puree.

Prime filet and rib-eye steaks can be served grilled, pan-seared, house-rubbed, au poivre or Pittsburgh style, then topped with drunken mushroom, red wine demi, bourbon, béarnaise or chasseur sauces.

Other entrées to tempt you are a seared duck breast (parsnip-shallot puree, thyme-roasted beets and hericot verts), salmon en croute (roasted heirloom tomatoes, wilted spinach and blue cheese wrapped in puff pastry), pan-seared porcini-dusted sea scallops, trout Amandine with toasted almonds and lemon beurre blanc, a bourbon-glazed Berkshire pork chop, chicken carbonara pasta, a wild mushroom tart and more.

If you’d like a la carte sides to accompany those mains, lobster mashed potatoes, lobster mac-and-cheese, spinach gnocchi gratin, sautéed Brussels sprouts, peperonata farro risotto and others await.

As with any new restaurant, I’ll give the Bistro at The Barge a few weeks to work out the kinks before I pop in for an official review. If I can wait that long.

I hear the bourbon selection upstairs may blow many a mind.

▪ ▪ ▪

Speaking of working the kinks out, it seems The Barge has done just that with its digs downstairs.

After the restaurant’s much-anticipated reopening earlier this year, I heard several folks talk about long waits and spotty service those first few weeks. The restaurant even closed for lunch temporarily, concerned that they weren’t providing strong enough service and wanting to take a step back to regroup.

I really applaud that. It takes a brave, yet humble, person to admit when things aren’t working, so I’m sure that was a tough decision. But it paid off.

The Barge is now sailing on smooth waters, pleasing crowds with good food and mostly exceptional service on a noticeably spiffed-up boat deck. Live music now greets guests several nights a week, creating an even more enjoyable al fresco dining experience.

As I mentioned a while back, The Barge offers a small selection of appetizers that includes a mix of traditional (wings, fried shrimp, loaded fries) and unexpected options (fried pigs ears, fried avocado, oysters, calamari).

There are also fresh and fried oysters, along with a handful of salads and flatbreads. But the main attraction here is a large “build your own” sandwich menu featuring enough meat, bread, sauce — and especially topping options — to create hundreds of different combinations.

So far I’ve enjoyed solid wings smoked on site with a tangy bulgogi sauce (don’t fall for the “boneless wings,” which come in frozen) and a nice Caesar salad interestingly topped with shaved and toasted Brussels sprouts.

From the sandwich board, I’ve had a burger topped with an egg and bacon, pulled pork with slaw, and smoked brisket with caramelized onions and spicy mustard — all worth a try. Sandwiches come with decent chips, but you’ll definitely want to upgrade to the awesome fries or onion rings.

Word of caution, though. Many of the premium add-ons come at an additional price, so both toppings and cost can add up in a hurry. (You can end up with an $18 burger if you’re not careful. Speaking for a friend.)

And while I’ve no big complaints about the food, I do have big kudos for the staff and the manager who made that gutsy call I mentioned early. I’m both passionate and picky about good service, so I love praising it when I see it.

Well played, Barge.

In addition to a bustling patio outside and bar inside, the restaurant also caters to all you local boaters out there. You can dock just steps away to pop in for food and drink, or even place an order to enjoy on your boat or take back out on the river. How cool is that?

I think I need a boat now, or so I thought while recently enjoying a drink on the restaurant’s patio.

But maybe that was the beer talking. There’s a really nice craft beer list here — plus fresh-squeezed margaritas and cocktails. It happens.

IF YOU GO: The Barge Restaurant, 1414 MacCorkle Ave. SW in South Charleston next to Trojan Landing, is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Monday. For information, call 304-744-2628 or visit www.bargerestaurant.com.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

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