Barred Owl Butcher & Table, A Restaurant Review
Since its opening in 2016, Barred Owl Butcher & Table in Columbia, MO quickly became a favorite spot. The restaurant’s decor and earthy theme is as appealing as its refreshing craft cocktails and unique menu items. Downtown COMO — Columbia, Missouri’s nickname for those of you not familiar with the quaint little college town that is totally food and alcohol obsessed — truly inherited a foodie treasure with this locally and sustainably sourced gem.
In college, I had gone back to Barred Owl as often as my minuscule college bank account would allow at the time. None of those outings forced me to dine with such attention to detail as the time that my Columbia College Food Writing class indulged in a four-course meal with the sole intention of taking in every facet to relay in a graded restaurant review. (Thanks, Professor Ingoglia!) Despite the fact that their ever-changing menu boasts fancy French and Italian words, meaning I had no clue what I was actually ordering in some cases, I was left more impressed than not 9 out of 10 times.
Fast forward five years. After moving to an entirely different state, I still find myself thinking back to a place I have yet to find a match for. So, I went ahead and scrounged up that old college paper of mine, which I give you below if you dare to get through it all. And kudos for those of you that get the SATC references. Keep in mind that while this review is a tad outdated, the sentiment still stands. COMO is the place to be for foodies and thus I have so many more recommendations for you guys. For all future restaurant reviews, keep an eye on my Columbia, MO page.
Excursion at Barred Owl Butcher & Table
Upon first entering the restaurant, I am greeted by the hostess. A young woman with messy blonde hair tied up into a ponytail. Her face is bare (makeup-less) — the natural look establishing the tone of the place as “one with nature.” She takes my coat from me at the table, and hangs it on the coat-rack by the front door. As she leaves our table, a male server comes over to offer drinks. Dressed in a crisp and collared button-down shirt he was. His hair is moussed into a smooth comb-over on top of his head to match the chestnut stubble that covers his face. This is the exact look that two other well-dressed servers seem to mimic. That includes the bartender, whose only difference in appearance is his fairer blonde hair and the grey cashmere vest and tie he wears while shaking martinis.
These men are the true stars of this show. While they claim their perfectly manicured facial hair is merely coincidence and not a part of the hiring requirements, I can’t help but to compare Columbia, MO’s Barred Owl to a classy Hooter’s. Except here, the men are to be ogled at for their obvious hipster yet elegantly-rugged looks.
Everything in this restaurant – from the impeccably dressed servers, to the wooden furniture, the trendy decoration, exceptional food, handcrafted cocktails, and the entire atmosphere of earthy soothing hues – are all designed and placed quite purposefully and strategically to match the mission statement on the Barred Owl website (though recently updated):
Every dish and cocktail we produce is guided by our conscious and constant effort to source responsibly and prepare food deliciously.Barred Owl Butcher & Table
Detail in every aspect is paid a great deal to, and the proof is truly in the pudding. (Pun intended, though I opted for the lemon tart instead for dessert.)
But first, The Powder Room.
Everything simply fits. Even the powder room (and while I never say “powder room” for bathroom, I feel it is necessary when discussing a swanky place in Columbia, MO such as Barred Owl); it screams “eco-friendly” with its dainty setup similar to that of a loo you might find in a dapper English cottage in the middle of Cornwall. Especially particular attention is paid to the paper products. The weaved basket of individual paper towels sits right under a sign written in elegant cursive reading. “Remember, these come from trees,” it reads. Inside the stalls, a little metal stand in front of the toilet holds out the roll of toilet paper (assumedly Quilted Northern Brand because of the cloud-like softness). It was as if a tiny metal waiter knelt there dutifully, holding out the roll ready to hand to royalty.
I’d like a Cheeseburger, Please, a Large Fries and a Cosmopolitan.
The rest of the Barred Owl aesthetic will command your attention before the food even gets a chance to. Dark earthy tones and dim lighting — which comes from the hanging bulbs placed in mason jars over the bar — makes the atmosphere comforting. A line of a dozen or more jarred fruits, olives, and herbs sit along the bar counter. The bar itself has at least four shelves of alcohol. And the sliding bar ladder gives the impression that you could be drinking in a fancy home library. (Because what public library actually has a ladder attached to the shelves besides ones in movies?!). Having dined here twice and having ordered cocktails in the past, I have since developed a mindset of drinking nothing less than bubbly decorated with colorful fruit rinds.
I ordered champagne both times. First, the champagne cocktail, which had more of a pinkish hue and a spiral orange peel. Second, the French 75, which is whiter with a splash of gin and lemon peel. Both times, I could feel the tingly sensation as the crisp bubbles and fruity scents slipped down my throat. Their website rightfully boasts about the bar saying:
Our bartenders press fresh juices, shrub seasonal produce, procure interesting and small-batch spirits, concoct bitters, infuse liquors, craft cordials, and design cocktails for every palate.Barred Owl Butcher & Table
Boast away, Barred Owl, because our group certainly left this little Columbia, MO restaurant having sworn to change our lingo from “going out for drinks” to going out for “cocktails” instead. Very Sex & The City of us, I know.The Top 12 wines you need to try—ONLY $69.99 + bonus gifts
Pass the Charcuterie, Please.
As if the deliciousness of the cocktails (and the servers) weren’t enough… The food will leave you delightfully satisfied and hungry for more. My family has always labeled me a picky eater. That being said, my mother would just die to know the chef’s secret to getting her daughter to eat Brussels sprouts and sauerkraut! (I’ll give you a hint though, buy me a free four-course meal and you can kiss those picky eating habits goodbye any day of the week. Ha — only kidding!)
The crunchy leafy-green sprouts came as a sort of flower bed for my main meal of the grilled rainbow trout. This delectable fish had the most crispy yet chewy skin that was browned to absolute pelagic perfection. The kraut: also crunchy and surprisingly not super bitter. Served alongside it was the smokiest Wagyu heart pastrami you may ever taste. As someone who prefers microwave bacon over the crisper-flavored pan-fried bacon though, the smokiness could have been turned down a notch for me. More like, Charred Owl.
This dish came as part of the charcuterie hot board (a Barred Owl Butcher Shop specialty and Columbia, MO favorite). I tried this one on my second visit. The board included a tender cut of lamb merge that melted like butter at the touch of a knife. Paired exquisitely alongside it was an orange sauce that was gritty from the pureed almonds, but not overpowering. Then there were the jalapeno-cheese curd hot links…whew, these were hot. These came with a side of chow-chow, a Southern pickled relish that was as sweet as it was tangy.
As an avid Brie lover, I wish there had been a bigger hunk of the melty cheese on the board. I did, however, get to try some other funky flavored cheese. This one was curly, thinly-sliced, and shaped like a gorgeous flower with crusted edges. I could appreciate the experience of it melting on my tongue in the same fashion a snowflake would, although I didn’t enjoy its bitter taste. The whipped ricotta certainly made up for my cheese shortcomings. It came with red Calabrian chili oil and oregano to add a fun swirl to the dip when mixing it up with the soft pita bread slices.
Muffaletta With a Lotta Kalamata…
I was skeptical to try the sandwiches on my first visit. Mostly because I assumed there were plenty of other interesting options than something as simple as a sandwich. On my second visit, I found I was not completely wrong with my first impression. While I should have tried the raved-about Bahn Mi, I went for the Italian sandwich on Special called the Muffuletta. Though filling, I couldn’t help but think my taste buds were not super pleased. To me, there was simply nothing worth getting excited about for this sandwich. The thick sesame bread could have been softer and took up most of the sandwich space. Where’s the meat, my peeps?
The olive spread on top of the provolone was one wacky addition my picky-eater side simply couldn’t ignore. I absolutely can’t stand the pungent taste of olives. There’s simply no way to prepare them “properly” that would change the flavor for me like I had experienced with the sauerkraut and Brussels sprouts. It goes without saying that an olive-lover would absolutely enjoy the strong overpowering flavors of the spread on this sandwich; it just wasn’t for me.
The Final Scoop.
Aside from my one less-than-satisfactory sandwich tasting, Barred Owl definitely set the trend as my favorite restaurant in town. The modern paintings that sparsely decorate the walls with their price tags add a richness and exquisite taste to the restaurant. It’s as if you’re getting more than just a pleasant food experience here. The vast window with large hanging cuts of meat is quite intriguing and enhances the theme of the butcher shop. It proves once again their attention to relevant details; I could eat one of their juicy medium-rare steaks sitting right next to that window and think, “Wow. It’s truly amazing how they create something spectacular out of that!”
The second visit made a huge impression on my opinion of this restaurant, especially since everything moves slower at lunch time. The servers stayed just as professional as they had been at dinner the time prior. Maybe it was the Arctic Monkeys song that came blasting in the background while we ate that caught my interest. Or maybe it was the French 75 cocktail that had my attention immediately in the first sip. Either way, Barred Owl in Columbia, MO is the trendiest place to rave about to your friends. At the end of our visit, one of the servers took his lunch break with us sitting at the bar. I caught a pleasing view of his perfectly oiled kale salad and plump Going Cold Turkey sandwich, and I must say, I certainly know what I’m ordering on my next outing here.