Eleven years ago, when restaurant pickings were a little slimmer in downtown Williamsport than they are today, a casual but trendy restaurant called Barrel 135 opened its doors at 135 West Third Street. The restaurant scene has since grown up around it, and Barrel 135 has, in the meantime, cemented its reputation as a stop for eclectic martinis and food with flair. Current owner and executive chef Joshua Aucker, who bought the business in 2015, describes his menu as a “southern/French Quarter mixture of food with a little bit of Asian influence.” Joshua, thirty-three, has been an integral part of Barrel 135 from the beginning. He started out there as a line cook in 2006, worked at another Williamsport restaurant for a time, and eventually returned to Barrel 135. His roots in the building go back even further, as he started cooking there at age sixteen, when it housed Heavenly Pasteria.
One of the signature dishes out of Joshua’s kitchen is a Buffalo macaroni and cheese dish that pairs fried chicken and Buffalo sauce with jalapeño cheddar macaroni and cheese. Though the menu changes seasonally, there are staples that stay on due to popular demand. Tuna nacho—little flour tortilla chips with wakame, diced tuna, diced red onions, sriracha oil, sliced jalapeños, and wasabi aioli—is a perennial favorite. “We tried taking it off the menu one time,” says Joshua, “and that didn’t go over well.” Another offering that has earned a permanent spot is the twenty-four-ounce soft pretzel with jalapeño cheese sauce and honey mustard. The current menu includes appetizer treats like truffle butter popcorn and sweet pea croquettes, a low-country Cuban sandwich, grilled filet, a variety of sushi, cast-iron salmon, and oh-so-interesting salads such as kohlrabi and spiced cashews.
The martini happy hour is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily and from 10 p.m. to midnight on Fridays. The martini menu changes seasonally, but, as with the food menu, there are a few staples that stay on due to popular demand. Those include the Barrel 135 martini—a concoction of vodka, olive juice, and blue cheese stuffed olives served with a lemon-pepper rim—and the caramel appletini. The bar makes its own house infused vodkas, including a peanut vodka which is used in the peanut butter cup martini.
With a degree in culinary arts and hospitality management from Penn College, Joshua says he can’t imagine doing anything else. “It’s not really work, since I actually enjoy doing it. I love to cook, I love everything about it.”
For more information go to www.barrel135.com or call (570) 322-7131.