Summer-Friendly Fare: Barley & Board Deconstructs Al Pastor and Strawberry Shortbread

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Temperatures are expected to soar into the high 90s this week, and the humidity is off the charts. Though we really don't want to admit it, summer has finally come to DFW, which means we're on the lookout for summer-friendly fare at our favorite restaurants. Denton brewpub Barley & Board's new menu is definitely appropriate for a few months of living on the surface of the sun.

Situated in downtown Denton's historic square, Barley & Board is a relatively new local favorite and a dining destination for its Dallas neighbors. Known for its rustic, sun-drenched dining area, shareable plates and wide selection of craft beers and cocktails, the brewpub/restaurant has been instrumental in continuing Denton's downtown dining renaissance. Their newest menu additions, the al pastor small plate and the strawberry shortbread, are deconstructed versions of classic summer favorites, and both are a bargain at $10 each.

The al pastor small plate is the classic, marinated pork street taco with a modern twist. Served on one of their eponymous boards, the centerpiece of this shareable dish is a sizable portion of tender grilled pork that's been marinated in orange juice and tossed with their house chili rub. The marinade gives the meat a sweet citrus kick, and like traditional al pastor, there's not a lot of heat, so it won't scare off the less adventurous diners. Grilled until slightly charred, the final product is the perfect marriage between spit-roasted, shawarma-style al pastor and Kansas City-style burnt ends (but pork). Instead of the traditional corn tortilla, the dish is served with grilled strips of crispy flatbread. On the side, a simple jalapeño relish of diced onion, lime juice and cilantro and a refreshingly light house-made lime crema. This is the perfect light dish to share at the start of a meal, easily satisfying three diners thanks to the large portion, but it would also make a tasty light lunch for the solo diner, paired perhaps with a lovely saison. 

Barley & Board's new signature dessert is another re-imagined summer favorite: a build-your-own strawberry shortbread board. Fresh strawberries are prepared simply, macerated lightly in sugar with fresh basil so they burst in the mouth but aren't overly sweet. The berries are served with house-made shortbread cookies that have the consistency of a well-made pie-crust. The shortbread is loaded with lemon zest — not overpowering, but enough to give the cookie a depth of flavor usually lacking in blander shortbreads. To top it all off, diners are treated to an entire bowl of amaretto whipped cream. Again, the amaretto flavor is delicate, a great accompaniment to the bright, summery flavors of basil and lemon. A perfect shareable plate, this dish is the answer to the awkward dining experience that happens when four people try to split a single slice of pie and wind up elbowing each other to get their fair portion. 

Between the gorgeous dining room, the excellent view of the square, and the craft drink selection, it's not hard to see why Barley & Board is quickly becoming one of north DFW's top dining destinations. Their new menu additions are two more reasons to stop by and enjoy the most delicious part of what locals call "Dentoning."

Barley & Board, 100 W. Oak St., Denton

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