The Dinner That Almost Sunk Our New Year’s Eve – The Barge

Susan says…

The Barge Bar exterior

I can summarize this meal in one word: bland.

I guess I am kinda spoiling the ending, huh? That is if the title didn’t give it away frst. 

Ron & I have been at bowl games for most of our New Year’s Eves together so we didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves in Charleston on such an occasion. None of our friends were having parties. Or, if they were, we were not invited. Some friends they are. We didn’t make a reservation at Embassy Suites. We didn’t invite anyone over to watch the ball drop with us. We were discussing our means of celebration as late as 2:00 that afternoon.  I tried to make a reservation at Aubrey’s and of course they were booked. I knew South Hills Market & Cafe would be full, too. So I looked to the list of restaurants we want to review and chose The Barge.

My friend Christy has to accept part of the blame because she gave me a positive report on this place after the two meals she ate. When I told her I went to the Barge just last week, she cuts me off and says “I don’t care if I ever go back there again.” Huh. Now ya tell me!

The novelty of being on board a sailing vessel can only take this place so far.  I thought it was kind of romantic that we had a view of the Kanawha River and at night, the lights at the chemical plants just look like pretty lights.  Coming here in warm weather and sitting on the lower deck after work is awesome.  They have some standard bar-type food and what I got (although it was frozen instead of homemade) was hot, tasty and reasonably priced.  I would totally recommend that Barge experience.  The fine dining experience, though…

My first disappointment was the menu. Only a handful of entrees are offered.  And they were out of salmon.  The online menu shows eight, but this is not exactly the menu we were given that night. For example, Ron ordered tuna which is not on the online version and I don’t remember sea bass as a choice. I also ordered a dish not appearing on their website.  Point is – don’t expect the menu shown on the website. For a plan-ahead kind of person like me, it confused me and I had to rethink my entire dinner plan.  Like how Padma tells the Chefs they have to prepare a seasonal menu based around their protein for 16 and then the next day they take them to a farm instead of Whole Foods.  

A special four-course meal was offered for the holiday, but after reading most of Waiter Rant (it really pissed me off so I refused to finish it) I decided to stick with a regular menu item. You see, The Waiter explains that many restaurants try to steer patrons to the simply prepared, high-profit margin items on holidays.

While we waited at our wobbly high-top table in the bar area, right beside the door where all the cold air blew in as other guests arrived, we were given a plate of freshly prepared hummus and flatbreads. This was delicious and the best part of my meal.  Our server was nice enough to box up a generous scoop of this hummus for us to take home. They do indeed make it on the premises- I asked. I washed the yummy appetizer down with a pricey $9 glass of the South African Graham Beck Syrah.  I think $9 is pricey because I can get a whole bottle from wine.com for $12.  I know wine gets marked up quite a bit, even more if it’s sold by the glass, but since I am the writer here, I’ll complain if I want to.  All the wine prices were a bit high, in my opinion, but beer prices seemed more reasonable at $3.50 per domestic bottle.

barge-filet-oscar

Filet Oscar

I ordered Filet Oscar – two 4-oz filet mignon cuts with asiago risotto, asparagus, and lump crab meat. Price: $40. I don’t mind paying the price for excellent food.  But honestly, I have could have done better in my home kitchen.  Don’t let the photo fool you – it looks a lot better than it tasted. In fact, print the photo and eat the paper. That’s probably a decent likeness.

Nothing was seasoned. It was bland and boring. This was certainly not “exquisite dining” as their menu asserts. I felt like I should throw salt over the whole plate.  The steak was cooked to medium as I requested, but it had no flavor. The asparagus was a bright color with a bit of snap left in the spears, but again – no flavor whatsoever.  The crab and sauce (I detected no “lump meat”) were the only components with any taste to them. The risotto had a cheesy element and was thick enough to form into a patty which all the other items were placed upon. I expect risotto to be creamy, not cakey.

My meal was okay. It certainly wasn’t worth forty bucks. Our total tab with one glass of wine and a couple beers for Ron was close to $100 pre-tip. We began listing the other restaurants in town where we could have eaten for $100 and they were all better than this meal.  Fazio’s, Chop House, South Hills Market & Cafe, Tidewater, even.  Hell, I would have preferred Applebees. 

I don’t recommend The Barge – ONE FORK. Unless you simply come for a beer and the hummus.

 

Ron says…

Hmmmmm… like Susan I too have heard decent things about The Barge.  Hey, the times we’ve come here for happy hour have all been good.  So why not try the top shelf eh?  So this New Years Eve that’s in fact what we did. 

And let me tell you it was about as exciting as watching stroke stricken Dick Clark and his game of teen wannabee’s liven up a party.  Come on does anyone really think the New Years Eve shit on TV is that exciting?  It sucks.  Much like the meal I had here.

Arriving we were not like most of the lazy folk who take the shuttle.  Just another reason why WV is one of the fattest states in the land.  A place needs a shuttle because the patrons are too lazy to walk what is less than fifty yards.  (but I didn’t measure it, it could be 55 yards).

Well we were promptly seated as our reservation was for 6:30 and I think we were the second couple here.  Lucky for us someone cancelled and it allowed us to get a table at this fine dining establishment which up until about 7:30 remained pretty empty.     Looking over the menu, I’m not as picky as Susan, and there were a few things that caught my eye.  However I wasn’t in the mood for a steak.  Plus, we eat so much salmon at the house I’m worried about mercury poisoning, so I didn’t want that either.   Hmmmm Tuna… I haven’t had Tuna in along while and besides – “It’s the chicken of the sea!”  and if I do get mercury poisoning well it will at least be from a variety of fish.  So I chose the Sesame encrusted Ahi Tuna  for $33.  It came with some rice stuff.  Plus I had more than a few Bud Light bottles at $3.50 each, which I thought was a fair price.

barge-tuna

Sesame-encrusted Ahi Tuna

Eventually our food comes out.  It looks pretty as you can tell by Susan’s pictures.  But I’m sure a top chef could serve me up a pretty looking dog turd, and if I didn’t like it, I’m also sure that there’s some yahoo on this site that will say I’m just a hilljack from WV so what do I know about good food.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well it must be a duck.

This tuna was overly dry – this is mostly my fault as I did order it medium and was warned against it.  But I just didn’t want a raw piece of fish.  So I take the blame for that.

But what I won’t take the blame for is that other than making a pretty picture there really wasn’t much to my meal.  (oh wait, the bread was good, served right out of a glass, how original).  Yes it was cooked medium with a nice red center.  Coated and seared with sesame seeds.  Which I’m not a fan of sesame seeds so I don’t know why I ordered this, mental note. 

As I was saying, this was a very bland meal, well prepared but bland.  I actually felt like I was eating cat food.  My cat would have loved it I’m sure.   It was tuna on a bed of rice and that’s exactly what it tasted like. Nothing more nothing less. (yes it was risotto but isn’t that just overly cooked rice, it is to my hilljack ass) 

This meal just didn’t do it for me.

Plus it was so long ago, and Susan’s harping on me to get these reviews done, I barely remember the eve.  Which is good because the more I remember it, the more I remember just how unremarkable it was.  Giving it Two Forks is probably one too many.   But I have to take the blame for ordering the Tuna in a way it wasn’t meant to be had.

However shame me once shame on you, shame me twice, shame on me.  “I won’t get fooled again!” 

Two Forks… if you eat here choose wisely.  I think this is better for an after work beer but not a fine dining experience.  I could be as easily satisfied just going to Applebees, and have enough money left over to get dessert. 

The Barge (Fine Dining Upstairs)
1414 MacCorkle Ave SW
Charleston, WV
1-800-800-8008
The Barge on Urbanspoon
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10 responses to “The Dinner That Almost Sunk Our New Year’s Eve – The Barge

  1. demosthenes.or.locke

    Best review I’ve read on the site in a while. I also thought the barge was really bland. We went when it first opened up, so I chalked it up to new factor.

    I much preferred the boat when it was the site of general seafood, where I practically live in the late 90s….

  2. “The Barge” is more like a scow. We sampled the menu one night with another couple and walked away shaking our heads. The place was a pitiful expensive joke. I don’t mind spending a couple c notes for dinner, but it better be good. This place was, like Susan said, bland, poorly cooked and cheesy presentation. Also, the portions were pitiful. I expect small portions at an upscale joint, but gimme a break.
    Charleston and WV in general is such a backwater for good food and “The Barge” does nothing to remedy this situation.

    And yes, good review. . . lots of information and details.

  3. I really enjoyed General Seafood. Specifically, the shrimp. I ate there quite a bit when they were downtown – for lunch. The BYOB cooler was a neat quirk, too.

    When they moved to the boat, it became a dinner destination for me. I was sad to see it close.

  4. The Yugoslavian fish stew was the best thing about General seafood and you can still get it at the Fish Market on Quarrier even if Yugoslavia is no more.

    I only ate once inside at the Barge and didn’t think it quite as bad as some of the commenters here do, but then again I haven’t been back so take that for what it’s worth.

  5. Upstairs – bland and overpriced, except for the hummus and the great flatbread they serve with it.

    Downstairs – decent bar food and one of the best cheeseburgers in Charleston…and they’ll cook it medium-rare! The churros are also a fun treat.

  6. Sailing vessel?

    But seriously. I remember reading the Food Guy’s review of the Barge, and I could tell that the place was awful, in spite of his minced words. I’m sure when the place closes, we’ll all get to read a newspaper article where the owner wrings his hands and complains about the bad business climate here instead of taking responsibility for serving bland, overpriced food.

    SALT and PEPPER, yo. So much more than a hip hop group…

  7. Not much to say except this place sucks. It’s just a mistake to have dinner there, regardless of the price. Nothing I had there, nor anything any of my party of four ate, was good. Nothing. Do yourself a favor and don’t even try it. Even my dog turned up his nose at my steak, though I’d eaten only a few bites before boxing it. Sad, because it could be so good – nice setting, etc.

  8. Stopped here last night, was in town for a few days. The view is ok and the ambiance was nice and the weather perfect. We were hungry and looking forward to a nice evening on the water. The deck tables were filled. We sat at our 2-seater for 20+ minutes and got NO CONTACT with any staff member. Tables around us were being waited-on and served and cleaned. Staff people everywhere, except with us! When I saw that a table that hade come in after us had drinks and was ordering, I walked inside to the bar and was told that a server would be sent to us. 8 more long minutes – AND NOTHING. Not even a glance, or any eye contact from any staff member! (and there were over 10 running around). Tables 5 feet away eating and drinking. So we left. We tried. No one seemed to notice or care – kind of unbelievably BAD. Bummer – I was hungry and in the mood to hang out and we are good tippers. Ended up at this place across the river two miles away http://www.lacarretamexicanrestaurant.com/ which was stellar, one of the best meal-events in my life. So it worked out nicely for us.

  9. Pretty sure it has changed owners. I’ve heard good things about their food recently but haven’t been yet. Maybe you guys could re-rview for all of us readers. Thanks.

  10. lol
    I just had to comment because I found your reviews so darn entertaining. I hope we have many more wonderful places to eat, but be sure and highlight the bad ones for entertainment factor! 😉
    I’m glad I never bothered going there.

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