The Saratoga Summer
Think of the Barrelhouse as a place you might bring your significant other on your anniversary.
Maybe not your 25th anniversary, but rather your eighth anniversary when it falls on a weekday after a long shift at work. There’s a laid-back atmosphere in the Beekman Street bar located in the heart of the Arts District that makes patrons feel at home.
Opened during the first week of the track this summer, the Barrelhouse has 20 beers on tap plus any number of others in cans or bottles — all priced in the affordable range. The menu features comfort foods and light fare that seems perfectly matched for a relaxing afternoon or evening over a few drinks.
“We wanted to do something that is an everyman’s place — just a nice, simple place like what was around here when we were growing up,” said owner Charlie Usas, a Saratoga Springs native.
There’s no waitstaff and the only people working there now are Usas and a pair of friends who cut their teeth at restaurants around the Spa City for more than a decade. Usas and co-owner Tyler Kelley teamed up with chef Dan Passamonte to craft the Barrelhouse from a location that was De Rossi’s Restaurant — a swank joint that catered to the track crowd years ago.
The building at 68 Beekman St. was vacant for a while before becoming one of the focal properties of the West Side’s revitalization during the late 1990s. The location was converted into Gotchya’s Trattoria until 2011, when the owners transformed it into the Groggery, a combined art gallery and bar that closed last year.
In February, Michael Pape and Michelle Corbett sold the property to Prodigy Eastern Ventures, a company that created office space above the restaurant location.
Usas and Kelley were both big fans of the location, but never considered opening a restaurant there until a friend of a friend told them of an opportunity there. Then after meeting with the new owners, the group decided to make a go at it.
“We said, ‘Hey, let’s see if we can do it on our own and put together something cool,’ ” Kelley said.
Usas and Kelley knew each other from working at other restaurants around the city. Passamonte’s friendship with Usas, however, dated to their time playing Saratoga Youth Hockey together during the early 1990s.
Passamonte had worked at Pepper’s Market during its heyday and was employed at the Comfort Kitchen in the Downstreet Marketplace. His down-home cooking style seemed like a perfect match for their business model of keeping things simple.
And simple is the concept that drives the Barrelhouse. Kelley conceived the name to pay homage to the small taverns that once dotted working-class areas.
“They’d pop up next to coal mines and plantations or wherever people worked hard,” Usas said.
The Barrelhouse seats about 70 people between its barside seating and an adjacent dining room connected to its order counter. A stone patio in the rear of the building also has seating where tipplers can enjoy a cocktail outside.
The tap selection and menu is all heavily supplied from local vendors. Browns Brewing Company of Troy and Olde Saratoga Brewing Company both have beers on tap, while the menu features cured meats from Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse in Warrensburg and Parillo Sausage Co. in the city.
In addition, Passamonte does curing in-house — something evidenced by a pleasant smoky aroma that seems fitting for the Barrelhouse finished-wood speakeasy decor.
The Barrelhouse is already drawing attention as a laid-back place to have a drink or some quick eats — especially among the service industry crowd. Usas said he’s already starting to see return customers bringing new ones through the door.
“You know you’re doing something right,” he said. “And that’s the best compliment you can get.”