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Little Barn: Swankier Than Frank’s

Several months ago when Swanky Franks, the Westport hot dog emporium, shut their doors it eliminated one more kid-friendly dining spot in Fairfield County.  Parents groaned and resigned themselves to another round of greasy pizza and post-game lunches at the local diner. But something swankier than Frank’s has opened in its Post Road location – Little Barn, a casual gastro-pub serving sandwiches, salads, and comfort-food-y entrees. The hip spot has a lively, roadhouse vibe and a kids menu designed to appeal to little palates.

Little Barn is the fifth restaurant owned by Kevin McHugh and Scott Beck (credits include The Chelsea, Gray Goose, and Little Goose in Fairfield, and Westport’s Spotted Horse).  Like their other hot-spots, Little Barn is outfitted in the rustic-American design they do so well – walls are lined with reclaimed wood and exposed brick and a roaring fire in the stone fireplace provides a cozy atmosphere.  In the summer, French doors will open onto a patio for al fresco dining (although I’m not sure that a table just steps away from the Post Road’s 4 lane speedway is all that appealing).

The upscale, pub-grubby fare and arm’s length drinks menu has all the bases covered. Sized-for-sharing starters include lobster mac & cheese, Guinness beef chili, house-made jalapeno poppers with lime crema, and spicy chicken wings.  Salads are generously portioned and creatively designed. Sandwiches, tacos, and classic comfort staples (meatloaf, fish ‘n chips, chicken pot pie) round out the entree selection.  Kids can dive into the Swanky Dog, Little Burger,  homemade chicken tenders, grilled cheese, or pasta with their choice of sauce.  A nice selection of wine, beer (on tap and bottled), and 13 specialty cocktails provide lots of thirst-quenching options.

A list of appealing sandwiches and burgers, served with a helping of onion rings, salad, or sweet potato fries, hit the spot on a bone-chilling winter day – and an enticing drinks menu called out to our inner hedonist.  Longing for a taste of the tropics, we ordered the Smoky Margarita, a nicely balanced concoction of jalapeño tequila, triple sec & fresh squeezed house mix with a dash of toasted Mezcal that lived up to its savory promise.

Although both the bar and restaurant were packed, the kitchen had no problem turning out our order in good time.  While the kids dove into their burgers and hot dogs (old habits die-hard!) we tucked into our sandwiches and burgers.  Winning praise were both the grilled chicken sandwich oozing with cheddar, and chipotle mayo on a brioche roll, and the “slow and low” braised pulled pork on a toasted English muffin.  The succulent and nicely seasoned ‘Shrooms burger (smothered in carmelized onions and mushrooms) also received accolades for its charred exterior – but we were slightly disappointed by the lack of actual ‘shrooms topping it – a total of three. However, our accommodating server was happy to remedy situation with a ramekin of sautéed Portobello.  Another pal opted for the grilled cod sandwich garnished with lettuce, tomato, and basil mayonnaise on brioche. While he was pleased with the fresh, tasty fish, he would have enjoyed it more if he didn’t have to remove the skin before digging in.

Overall we had a good experience at the Little Barn – it’s a swanky alternative for tasty, well-prepared food in a bustling, hip-for-the-burbs environment.

Little Barn 1050 Post Rd E, Westport, (203) 557-8501

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