I had driven past the little shack on south Orange Avenue that is the home of the eye-rollingly named Gnarly Barley for years without ever stopping. But when the restaurant I had intended to visit on a recent night was closed unexpectedly, and with no other prospects on my route back home, I decided it was time to pull over and check it out.
As the Barley part of the name would suggest, GB specializes in craft beers, with about 16 ever-changing selections on draft and an array of by-the-bottle choices. The current draft selections are detailed on a black chalkboard that covers an entire wall. Actually, it doesn’t take a lot to cover a wall here — this is a pretty compact little space.
Gnarly, besides its rhyming characteristic, I’m sure isn’t meant to be taken for its original definition, which is unpleasant or unattractive. Hmmm, well, it isn’t a very attractive place, but it isn’t without its charm. I’m guessing it’s to be taken for its slangier meaning, which is more like bitchin’, but come to think of it, that has multiple meanings, too.
Whatever. I started my experience with something from the “Big Bites” section of the menu called a Snack Attack. These people clearly like their little rhymes, don’t they? These are sort of a take on nachos but with kettle cooked potato chips instead of tortilla chips. They are glorious glops of various proteins — chicken, brisket, pork — with melted blue cheese and chopped tomatoes and peppers. A squeeze drizzle of sour cream sauce is meant to pretty it up a bit. It was what it was, and it went down well with the Lagunitas I chose from the beer list.
I also sampled the Barley Brisket Bacon sandwich, which had plenty of juicy meat plus melted cheddar cheese, some raw red onions, tomatoes and mayonnaise on a roll.
Besides the cramped quarters inside the old house structure, there is patio seating in back. My guest and I were glad to have snagged a couple of seats at the small bar because it turned out to be a rainy night for the folks outside.
I’ve been served by friendlier, more welcoming bartenders, but the fellow we dealt with was ok. I was glad I finally stopped by and experienced the gnarliness.
Gnarly Barley is at 7431 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-854-4999.