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He Said: Blasted Barley is comfort food done right in downtown Tempe

(Instagram Photo/@blastedbarleyaz)

Sometimes you aren’t looking for a culinary exploration or introduction to new fare.

Instead, what you really want is comfort food and simple things done right. I found that place and was surprised at my experience.

Tucked away in a corner near Mill Avenue between Third and Fourth streets sits Blasted Barley. I initially thought it was just going to be a college dive bar with mediocre food but instead I found a really enjoyable and varied menu.

I haven’t tried their beer yet so let’s focus on the food for now.

I had to start with the house-made mozzarella sticks that came with marinara and ranch for dipping.

These things are fantastic. No frozen sticks with some empty shells here. Instead, you will get fresh, thick mozzarella breaded with herbs that really give it a special something. I’ve become a cheese curd snob lately, but these are hands down my favorite when I want the original.

Even better is that they are on the happy hour menu, so I know where my next happy hour is going to be. The dipping sauces aren’t actually needed and, honestly, they were nothing to write home about.

Moving on to entrees, on my visit I had the Good Life Burger and it lived up to its name. It came on a pretzel bun with blue and brie cheeses, truffle aioli, bacon jam, lettuce, and tomato. It was big and it was tasty and I took half of it home because, among the options for a side, you can get tater tots.

Anyone who has read any of my articles knows I have a weakness for the tots and really they just go well with a burger.

I would recommend telling them to cook it medium though as they defaulted to medium well and that is just too cooked for my tastes.

There are many different burger combos all worth tasting. My partner got the Blasted Veggie Burger and had only positive things to say about it.

On my second visit, I opted for the healthier Blasted Chop Salad that came with the normal chop salad — raisins, corn, tomatoes, avocado, turkey, pepitas and arugula. Now, I can’t remember exactly, but I believe quinoa isn’t normally in a chop and they included it in theirs. It’s a great protein add and, with the popularity of quinoa, it didn’t surprise me.

The real difference is the goat cheese vinaigrette. You have to like goat cheese to like this but it was unique and it stood out in just the right way. The sweet raisins mellowed the tartness of the cheese and it really came together in each and every bite.

There are many more things I would like to try on their menu and they seem to have really great brunch and happy hour deals. Now that the weather is getting nice, you can go outside and enjoy their patio while drinking mimosas or Bloody Marys.

It’s a friendly and relaxed restaurant that is clearly used to dealing with the college crowd but, if you live in Tempe or along the light rail and are looking for a place to chill out and enjoy good classic food and maybe a craft cocktail or freshly brewed beer, this may just be the place you are looking for.

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