Barney’s Beanery’s Macaroni & Cheese

This mac ‘n’ cheese was one I’ve been looking forward to reviewing for a long time. Even before moving up to Santa Monica, I had visited and fell in love with Barney’s Beanery – a restaurant I’d often call Billy’s Beanery or Johnny’s Beanery, simply because I could never remember the name. So, you can imagine, once I moved up here, Barney’s became a frequent lunch spot or Friday happy hour venue. (The Third Street Promenade location is one of five in the Los Angeles area.)

I love the place not only because it has a great atmosphere, with comfy bench seats from actual cars and free shuffle board, but also because it has the most extensive menu I’ve ever seen. It has anything you could want, with an emphasis comfort food – from omelets and pizza to Salisbury steak and grill cheese sandwiches to several different kinds of PB&J sandwiches and, of course, macaroni and cheese.

Just to give you an idea, here’s a blurb about the restaurant’s menu, which is printed like a newspaper:

“Our menu is a sight to behold, both for its breadth across a multitude of cuisine styles and its breadth over the printed page. So large is the menu, that we must print it as a newspaper, complete with anecdotes and tales of the many customers who have dined at Barney’s Beanery. There is breakfast, lunch and dinner options, all served around the clock . . . With one thousand items and variations to choose from, we can only sum it all up by saying ‘If we don’t have it, you don’t want it.’ ”

The excerpt is right on point with its description of the extensive menu, but it also makes an interesting point that I didn’t think about the first few times I looked through it. But I’ll address that later in my review. Now, on to the mac ‘n’ cheese!

Simply called Macaroni & Cheese, the dish is included in the half-page Pasta section on page nine – there are 12 total! All the pasta dishes come with bread and a small soup or salad. Although I didn’t really need the salad (just as at the past two restaurants), the bread was a yummy addition. It was Texas toast, lightly buttered and seasoned. Probably more carbs than necessary for the meal, though.

As you can see from the photo, I couldn’t resist from digging into the gooey goodness before snapping a photo. Much to my surprise though, my first bite – and second and third and so on – was that of disappointment. Though the dish appears cheesy and creamy, it was bland and dry. It needed bolder flavor, creamier sauce and a variety of cheeses blended in. I’m no cheese expert, but I could tell the sauce didn’t include any of the gourmet cheeses with fancy names of restaurants past. Even a little sharp cheddar would have been nice, but it definitely lacked the flavor kick that would have added.

Where many restaurants on my Ultimate Mac ‘n’ Cheese Quest list have jumped on the gourmet macaroni and cheese bandwagon, I now know that Barney’s Beanery has not. Here’s my theory: Instead of focusing on high-quality ingredients and superior recipes, Barney’s focuses on having numerous items with basic ingredients and then lots of variations. Quantity over quality. I guess it is a sports bar after all. But I was just so enamored with the impressive atmosphere and menu, that I never really put much thought into it until my disappointing mac ‘n’ cheese.

This isn’t to say that nothing on the menu is good. I can say from experience that I have had some tasty dishes. But now I understand why I had such high – misinterpreted – expectations. And I know not to expect so much next time I peruse the lengthy menu.

The restaurant: Barney’s Beanery, Santa Monica, CA
The plate: Macaroni & Cheese, $10.50
The ingredients: Elbow noodles, cheese sauce, bread crumbs
The verdict: With the menu is as extensive as it is, you’re better off passing on the mac ‘n’ cheese and picking something else.

Published by lindsayeholloway

Writer... editor... environmentalist... athlete...

One thought on “Barney’s Beanery’s Macaroni & Cheese

  1. That’s pretty upsetting. I think we were just so overwhelmed with the first impression (a huge plate of nachos, beer/cocktails, loud music, and free shuffleboard) being so great, that we had created this image of the perfect place to hang out with friends. I guess the first impression isn’t always necessarily the most important. 😦

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