Barley and Hops Tavern
It’s one of the many pleasures of dining in a small, Russian River town: a cold, Sonoma County brewed beer, a good burger, and live, rockin’ music.
Such is the case at Barley and Hops Tavern, which has been charming customers in Occidental since the summer of 2008. But this March, owners Noah Bolmer and Mirjam Maggio Bolmer transferred ownership to Molly Shanley Musso and Giancarlo Musso, and now, the pub is even better, thanks to a larger emphasis on the restaurant side of what has traditionally been more of a beer palace.
It was a natural move for Giancarlo, who was raised in Santa Rosa with his Italian mother Carla Musso, a chef who owned the former Borgo Antico restaurant and her own catering business. Molly, meanwhile, is a native Santa Rosian with a background in interior design and antiques – a good fit, since the three-story yellow clapboard Victorian house boasts period detail like parlor chandeliers and a wall display of antique beer taps in the entry bar, with the warren of small dining rooms trimmed in yellow walls anchored by charcoal-black painted wainscoting.
Right off the bat, the duo lined up more live music artists to perform Thursday through Saturday nights, and added even more beers to the line-up of local and boutique beers already spanning some 50 pages. Choices feature many Sonoma County crafts, and might include dark, hoppy Sunshine Fix American double/Imperial IPA crafted by San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery, or Rye Ryerish Irish Dry Stout style beer brewed by Berryessa Brewing Co. in Winters.
Some menu staples the Mussos wouldn’t dare change, such as the giant housemade Bavarian pretzel ($5) served hot and scattered in salt - we pull off plump pieces and dunk them in stone ground mustard. The signature Chimay chicken ($15.75) remains, too, great with its crunchy pretzel beer batter fried crisp, side of chunky mashed potatoes, sautéed mixed vegetables and lots of mustard and sweet cream gravy.
But the popular burgers now flaunt herb-spice seasoned Niman Ranch grass fed beef ($11), and garlic fries ($5/$7.50) are greater pungent pleasure, the thick cut, skin-on wands smothered in fresh minced cloves. And there’s a new spinach salad, the leaves tossed with strawberries, shaved red onion and poppy seed dressing with a side of Brie toast ($12).
Most of the new items appear as specials, though, including sautéed prawns with buttery sofrito sauce over cilantro rice with avocado salad ($17.75), and Thai chicken lettuce cups doused in vibrant ginger and chile garlic sauce ($13). The idea is to showcase seasonal ingredients, and West County products, Molly explains, alongside regular menu features like the Bodega Catch, a cornmeal-crusted rock cod grilled and layered with lettuce, tomato and remoulade on brioche, paired with fries and housemade pickles ($12).