Restaurant Review

A Bit of Disney in the Design: Barrow House in Clifton

Visiting Barrow House, a relatively new gastropub in Clifton, we were charmed by the strikingly different looks of the several rooms.

Photo courtesy of Barrow House

Over the years, a few chain restaurants have occupied the Clifton building that became Barrow House last October. Extensively redesigned, it has a barn-wood façade and porch that bring Cracker Barrel to mind. Inside, though, it’s Disney-like in its choice of rooms: a frontier-style bar up front; a fancy Victorian parlor; a barn room with modern atrium roof; a more formal room antlered like a hunt club.

“That’s kind of the idea,” says Dean Maroulakos, who owns Barrow House with his brother, Tom. “We researched how the area looked in the past. Some like to hang out in the bar; others have cocktails in the parlor; and there’s people who love—or don’t love—the taxidermy in the back.”

Barrow House is off to a booming start. The space is large (8,000 square feet), with tables comfortably spaced. There are about 214 seats, not a small number. Yet at peak periods, if you don’t have a reservation, you can expect a wait.

Under chef Frank DeGruttalo, a Jerseyan who was a line cook at the brothers’ other restaurant, Cowan’s Public, in Nutley, the fare is hearty.

The rustic pizza with cured meats had a crust so thick and satisfying, the crunch could be heard across the table. The pasta in the short-rib pappardelle was al dente, the ragù tender and beefy. Fried-green-tomato sliders with kimchi brightly blended sweet, spicy and tangy.

Bacon-wrapped meatloaf on celery root purée with barbecue sauce was so good, we devoured it in an instant.

Yet execution can be uneven. Oven-baked chicken wings, deliciously meaty and crispy, came with charred onion far from charred and blistered sweet peppers far from blistered.

Likewise, in a delightfully crunchy and succulent pig-tail appetizer with sweet and sour molasses, pickled onion and roasted brussels sprouts, half the sprouts seemed steamed, the rest completely charred. My Barrow Burger, ordered medium, arrived thoroughly dry, with burnt edges.

A few ingredients seemed undercooked, but for the better: the beets in the grapefruit, mixed greens, prosciutto and Parmesan salad; the glazed baby-carrot side dish with honey and chili powder; and the peas accompanying bacon-wrapped meatloaf. All retained a satisfying crunch that lent a bright freshness to the dishes.

On both visits, one entrée for our party of four was brought to the table several minutes after the others, with no recognition or apology from the staff. The first time, the laggard was the New York strip steak. Fortunately, it was excellent and perfectly cooked, with stewed tomatoes and onions providing pleasant contrast. The second time, a full four minutes elapsed before the missing wild-mushroom risotto was delivered. Fortunately, it, too, was good.

The promising flavors in a Mediterranean cod with smoked-tomato purée, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and olives did not coalesce. An apple-chutney quesadilla with cheddar, queso fresco, cipollini onions, habanero oil and crushed nuts was unaccountably bland.

After plates were cleared, we were thinking coffee and dessert when a server came over and said, “I’ll bring the check.” Whoa. I asked about dessert. We were told there was just one, cookies and milk. They made a nice homey treat. But we hadn’t quite polished them off when a busboy whisked away the plates before we could protest.

The check hit the table about a minute later.

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    American
  • Price Range:
    Moderate
  • Price Details:
    Lunch and dinner, daily; brunch, Saturday-Sunday.
  • Ambience:
    Rustic pub with alternative-rock soundtrack and whimsically themed rooms.
  • Service:
    Friendly, if unpolished
  • Wine list:
    Discerning, moderate-size beer and wine lists; traditional cocktails, two served on tap

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