The farm-to-table label can often seem overused. It can seem like another trendy phrase or branding trick to tack onto menus just for the heck of it — even if only a small fraction of the restaurant’s fare has roots from a nearby farm and even if “local farm” really means it’s 400 miles away.
But if everybody is doing it, Barley & Rye wants to do it right.
Farm-to-table is not just a label here. At Barley & Rye Bistro, 1320 5th Ave., Moline, you can read the names of farms where produce comes from on a chalkboard near the bar. About 95 percent, if not more, of the the food comes from farms within a short radius. And a portion of the food comes from the shop’s own gardens.
And if you still don’t trust it, just hear Chef Jared Linn spout off the names of farms where he gets his bison, tomatoes, beef and greens.
“Everything on the menu is like the face of a farmer,” Linn said. “We know how everything is being raised."
Linn sources grains locally and grinds the flour on his own.
With authentic farm-to-table, you can taste the difference, says his wife, Lauren Linn.
"For me, I can tell how much better I feel after eating food without the chemicals and that's not from a drive-thru," she said. "I think everybody can tell."
Linn aims to use his training from the Culinary School of the Rockies and incorporates flavors from a stint in Southern France into his dishes.
Linn opened the restaurant in November 2013 after years working under other people in the restaurant business.
“I wanted to be able to do it my way,” he said. “And I tried to do things that people don’t usually get around here.” Take the bone marrow, duck eggs, quail or specially-cured bacon as examples.
“I have to really think about something that isn’t made in house,” Lauren Linn, who grew up in Blue Grass, said. “If you need some gluten free or you have a weird allergy, he makes everything.”
From higher-end fare such as the Bouillabaisse, a French stew with cod, mussel, clam and trout, to twists on biscuits and gravy and burgers and fries, Linn strikes a balance between familiar and out-there.
With that, the Barley & Rye menu is subject to change from week to week as seasons change. If one crop isn't quite ready, Linn shifts the recipe.
"Staying true to farm-to-table creates more work, but it's rewarding," he said.
As the summer months roll in, customers can expect plenty of peppers, corn, tomatoes and fruits, all enjoyed on the bistro's patio.
"The options go on and on," Linn said. "I want to keep surprising people with what we can do while being sustainable."
Those surprises also go for the collection of more than 400 whiskeys and bourbons, a passion project for Linn. You can order a flight of bourbons for $20, including his current favorite brand called Angel's Envy.
"Bourbon is really big in our family and is something we use to connect to each other," he said. "I wanted a place to celebrate that."
Family ties spread throughout the restaurant — a 70-foot mural features drawings of his dad and late brother. His wife, parents and siblings often help out around the shop.
"I grew up in Moline and I've been other places, but this is my home," Linn said. "I wanted to bring things I've learned to my hometown."
He also wants to spotlight all the farms in a 20- or 30-mile radius of downtown Moline.
“I don't know if everyone realizes how much of a hub we are for quality food and crops in this area," Linn said. “I think people want to know more where their food comes from, and we make that really easy."