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The Fig & Barrel Pub: Warm, Inviting and Aged to Perfection

  • By Phantom Diner

The first thing one notices upon entering The Fig & Barrel Pub in downtown York is the “Whiskey Wall.” It is a tall wall of fully-operational whiskey bottles and small barrels stacked on wooden shelves behind a lovely long bar just inside the front door.

You can’t miss it. There’s even a ladder, and rightly so. It runs from bar-level to a high ceiling. For those who are partial to brown liquor, and perhaps even for those who are not, it is a beautiful sight.

But after you gaze on this wonder, look around. The place, not wide but deep, has hardwood floors, splendid suspended lighting, banquette and table seating in the front of the house and an open brick wood-fired pizza oven with more booth and table seating in the back.

The building is more than a century old and housed in past both the York Railway Company and the Edison Light & Power Company. The redo is impressive. The atmosphere is a mix of casual, industrial, rustic and comfy. There’s some outside seating in front of the pub, which is located on Market Street just west of the town square.

As you might imagine, there’s some emphasis on whiskey here. There is even a “Whiskey Book,” a weathered leather-bound catalogue of what seems like more than 100 choices, including ryes, scotch, Japanese blends and more. A number of tasting flights are also available. And, of course, there’s a changing selection of craft beers on tap and a pretty fair list of wines by the glass or bottle.

A dining companion and I met friends there recently for dinner. I started with a Sazerac made with Old Forester rye, which was excellent. As is the reasonably-priced house cocktail menu. It includes items such as the Fig N’ Cocktail, made with bourbon, fig shrub, honey, vanilla and egg white. And a Singapore Sling. When did you last see that on a menu that wasn’t on a cruise ship?

The mostly-pub-type food is varied, fun and creative. Offerings range from small plates to flavored potato tots to salads, soups, sandwiches, pizza and entrees.

Small plates, like the rest of the menu, are practically priced, and include wood-fired Mac `n Cheese, house-made pierogi, and something that’s a bit out of the ordinary, hand-twisted soft pretzels from York City Pretzel Company (a neighbor to the pub), served with mustard beer cheese sauce and horseradish.

Two in our party split a large thick bowl of gumbo, billed as a “`Nawlins original,” made with andouille sausage, pulled chicken, peppers, rice and topped with shrimp. It drew high marks and was called a meal in itself. It is easily enough for two to share.

My dining partner and I shared a classic Caesar salad with white anchovies. Again, it was plenty big for two. There are other salads, such as the Nutty Pig, with cashews, bacon, grapes and honey sesame dressing over mixed greens.

Sandwiches include a variety of grilled cheese presentations on toasted house-made sourdough bread. I was tempted by one with Munster, roasted chicken, spinach and tomato slices. Maybe next time. There also are burgers, a bourbon barbecue pulled pork sandwich and a wood-fired crab sandwich with bacon.

Lots of pizzas are offered, from a classic Margherita to a “Morning Pizza” of mozzarella, provolone, bacon, sausage and egg, to a “Fig & Pig,” with fig, prosciutto, mascarpone and arugula.

Entrees are mostly under $20, except for a market-price butcher’s cut of the day. They range from homestyle battered chicken with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, to a pork tenderloin, braised short ribs, cheesy pierogis and kielbasa, to a family recipe of gnocchi gorgonzola.

There’s more. Our table ordered a highly-praised mustard-crusted salmon dish, and an unusual pale ale risotto with a very spicy house-made chorizo. Two of us opted for shrimp and grits, a generous serving of Gulf shrimp with a Cajun sauce over thick and delicious cheesy grits. All at our table were pleased.

This is a husband and wife owned and operated pub with lots of house-made products and evident attention to detail.

The sole downside during our visit was a short-staffing issue, all too common in today’s restaurant world, but made tolerable by our server’s graciousness and familiarity with the menu.

And the menu is a draw in that it’s a mix of imaginative pub fare and some old-school dishes treated in homestyle ways. When in York, the Fig & Barrel is definitely worth a try.

FIG & BARREL PUB:

25 W. Market St., York

Street and nearby garage parking. The website says open for brunch, lunch and dinner daily; reservations recommended (always best to call ahead); 717-850-0080; figandbarrel.com.

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